Graduation Date

5-2020

Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree

Master of Science

Program

Education

Program Director

Jennifer Lucko, PhD

First Reader

Jennifer Lucko, PhD

Second Reader

Annie Reid, MLIS, CA

Abstract

Math gender gap research shows girls’ math self-efficacy to be correlated with their interest in pursuing higher levels of math education and STEM career opportunities. Most math gender gap studies have used only quantitative approaches, thereby missing the opportunity to gain deeper perspectives directly from girls who are steadfastly facing the math gender gap. This study centered around two small focus groups of girls attending a unique secondary school where every afternoon is fully dedicated to deep engagement with higher-level mathematics. Additionally, parents of girls at the school were surveyed to provide further insight into possible sources of their daughter’s math self-efficacy. The research aimed to identify common experiences that had contributed to the girls’ math self-efficacy to inform strategies that parents, teachers, administrators, and educational policymakers can implement to increase math self-efficacy for girls. The findings unexpectedly revealed that these girls had experienced obstacles to their math self-efficacy during elementary school, which created a disinterest or dislike of math within school. However, the findings also showed the foundational significance of family math experiences and role models towards building the girls’ math self-efficacy. Importantly, only through nonstandard opportunities beyond regular math in school did the girls begin to identify their math self-efficacy. Furthermore, the crucial insight gained through the study was how fragile math self-efficacy is, even among girls who have a strong math foundation, and how important it is to create the opportunities and environments to nurture girls’ math self-efficacy throughout their education.

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