"Growth Mindset" Could Encourage More Women in Science, Math Fields

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The belief that math ability is developed through learning, also known as a growth mindset, may motivate more women to pursue careers in physics, engineering, mathematics, and computer science.

The belief that math ability is developed through learning, also known as a growth mindset, may motivate more women to pursue careers in physics, engineering, mathematics, and computer science (PEMC).

A study conducted by Florida State University showed that many American high school students believe mathematic intelligence to be a fixed trait that cannot be significantly improved with more work. A growth mindset, meanwhile, promotes the idea that skills are gained through hard work and dedication.

While both girls and boys believe math abilities to be a fixed trait, boys tend to overrate their inherent abilities in math and science, and girls underrate their abilities. The difference in perception may account for why males dominate PEMC fields in society.

The study authors posited that replacing these misconceptions with a growth mindset in classroom settings could be effective in closing the gender gap in PEMC fields.

The researchers found that 10th- and 12th-grade girls with a growth mindset about their mathematic skills were 2 times as likely to select a PEMC major.

"It is important for the United States and other nations to continue to invest in interventions to end gender segregation in PEMC sciences," Samantha Nix, a doctoral student at Florida State, and co-author of the study, said in a press release. "For instance, students may need to hear that encountering difficulty during classwork is expected and normal and does not diminish their ability to become a successful scientist. In addition, instructors may want to ask themselves if they are giving the same feedback to young women and men who deal successfully with a difficult mathematics problem in class."

These findings were published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

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