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Despite Stereotypes, Girls and Boys Do Equally Well in Math and Science

Update Date: Mar 29, 2013 10:57 AM EDT

Despite the gender stereotype that boys are better than girls at math, a new study reveals that male and female students earn similar grades in math and science. 

However, Asian American students of both genders outperform all other races in math and science courses.

The study published in Psychology of Women Quarterly involved 367 White, African American, Hispanic and Asian American 10th grade male and female students in math and science. 

Researchers found that while male and female adolescents earned similar grades in math and science, Asian American students scored higher than all other ethnic groups, with Asian males in particular receiving the highest scores. However, researchers found that Hispanic and African American male students received the lowest scores in these subjects.

"Asian American male adolescents consistently demonstrated the highest achievement compared to other adolescents, mirroring the 'model minority' stereotype," study authors wrote. "In contrast, the underachievement of Latino and African American males is a persistent and troubling trend."

Researchers found that male students reported more confidence in their own ability in math as well as higher expectations of success.  However, female students reported greater value of science than males.  Researchers said these findings did not vary across ethnicities.

After accounting for the effects of family income and education on school achievement, researchers found that self-concept, task value and expectations of success were still strong predictors of students achieve in science and math courses.

"Despite gender similarities in math and science achievement, female adolescents tend to believe their science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) abilities are just not as strong as those of their male classmates," lead author Professor Nicole Else-Quest of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County said in a statement.

"We believe these attitudes are important in students' choices about persevering in math and science and pursuing STEM careers," she added. "Moreover, we need to expand our approach to this issue and study affective variables such as anxiety, boredom or apathy, enjoyment, and pride, given prior findings of the importance of these emotions in academic achievement contexts."

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