We all know women in STEM can be the victim of bias in college classrooms and employer conference rooms and labs. But a recent article in The New York Times points to research that suggests that this sort of gender bias might extend to the elementary school classroom. A study in Israel showed that teachers who knew student identities scored boys’ math tests higher than girls’ math tests when compared to teachers who graded the same tests blindly (i.e. they didn’t know which were boys’ and which were girls’). This bias wasn’t present in English and Hebrew tests. This study followed those students through junior high and high school. Not surprisingly, the boys who had been encouraged (their math proficiency overestimated in elementary school) did better in math and took more advanced STEM classes than the girls who had been discouraged (their math proficiency underestimated in elementary school). The study also suggested that the discouragement in elementary school math may have also lowered the students’ confidence in other subjects as well.
We thank Ainissa Ramirez, the keynote speaker at the 2015 ATE Principal Investigators conference, for mentioning this article in her keynote remarks.