NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - In a study, girls in advanced mathematics classes said they thought they were worse at math than boys who were in basic math classes.
"Boys believed they were better than their grades actually are, while girls believed they were worse than their grades actually are," study author Dr. Pamela Davis-Kean of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor told Reuters Health.
Furthermore, despite girls' report cards, parents tended to believe that girls have to work harder at math than do sons.
These early influences may discourage many capable girls from entering careers in math and science, Davis-Kean said.
Starting early in school, the researchers found that girls overall received better grades than boys in school, and teachers generally said girls were stronger students than boys. However, even girls receiving excellent grades in advanced or honors math classes said they were worse at math than boys in basic math classes, receiving lower grades.
Girls also tended to say they worked harder at math than at English, but time diaries showed that girls logged more time working on language arts than on math.
Furthermore, parents of girls tended to say math was harder for their daughters than did parents of sons, and parents of daughters also believed their children had to work harder at math to do well.
Parents also tended to say they wanted their daughters to be happy in life, but wanted their sons to be successful.
These findings suggest that parents' expectations for their daughters may be discouraging them from math and engineering careers, the researcher said. Girls "may be getting steered away."
My mother is a high school math teacher. Her first major disappointment in life is when she was told she couldn't be an astronaut because she was a girl. Her second was when I showed very little aptitude for math or science. She was always convinced that if she had just tried a little harder, I could have been the astronaut she never got to be.