Tag Archives: mathematics

Self-Stereotypes Still Limit Women’s Performance

A common cultural stereotype in the U.S. is that women perform more poorly than men on quantitative tasks and that Asians perform better than other groups.

Larry Hedges

Larry Hedges

Susan L Forman

Susan L Forman

Test performance data support these perceptions, according to separate findings by Northwestern’s Larry V. Hedges and Amy Nowell, then of University of Chicago, as well as by Susan L. Forman and Lynn Arthur Steen of St. Olaf College.

Lynn Arthur Steen

Lynn Arthur Steen

Asian-American women are susceptible to two conflicting stereotypes regarding quantitative performance.
-*Which stereotype most influences performance?

Margaret Shih

Margaret Shih

UCLA’s Margaret Shih, Todd L. Pittinsky of SUNY, 
and Stanford’s Nalini Ambady activated ethnic identity or gender identity before Asian-American women competed a mathematics test.

Todd Pittinsky

Todd Pittinsky

Volunteers performed better when their Asian ethnic identity was activated, but worse when their gender identity as females was activated, compared with participants who had neither identity activated.

Nalini Ambady

Nalini Ambady

The stereotype threat of gender identity contributed to poorer performance among individuals who could perform better.

Claude Steele

Claude Steele

This effect was demonstrated among African-American students, who were stereotyped to be poor students.
These volunteers underperformed compared with white students in a study by Stanford’s Claude Steele and Joshua Aronson of NYU.

Joshua Aronson

Joshua Aronson

Yale’s Becca Levy demonstrated the same effect by priming elderly participants with a negative stereotype of older people.

Becca Levy

Becca Levy

These volunteers performed more poorly on a memory task in contrast to their superior performance when they were primed with a positive stereotype of aging.

Individuals vulnerable to stereotype threat can mitigate effects by symbolically disconnecting from the self-reputational threat, according to Shen Zhang, then of University of Wisconsin with University of British Columbia’s Toni Schmader and William M. Hall.

Toni Schmader

Toni Schmader

They asked male and female volunteers to complete a math test using their real name or a fictitious name.
Women who used a fictitious name performed significantly better than those who used their actual names, and they reported less self-threat and distraction.

Zhang and team posited that women performed better when they were not part of a group attributed with poorer math performance.

In contrast, male participants performed equivalently when completing the math problems using real and fictitious names, suggesting that stereotype threat is not activated for men during quantitative tasks.

Stereotyping by others and even oneself can undermine task performance, yet consciously refuting the preconception may mitigate these effects.

-* What other approaches do you use to reduce and manage stereotype threat?

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STEAM-powered Innovation: Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics

Ainissa Ramirez

Ainissa Ramirez

“Science evangelist” and former Yale professor Ainissa Ramirez argues that STEM disciplines – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics – increase curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking by asking basic questions:

  • How can we succinctly describe this phenomenon?
  • Why does this phenomenon occur?
  • How can we apply insights about this phenomenon to make practical improvements in daily life?
Henri Poincare

Henri Poincare

She advocated combing Arts disciplines with STEM to STEAM-power fresh insights, as mathematician Henri Poincare noted: ‘To create consists of making new combinations. … The most fertile will often be those formed of elements drawn from domains which are far apart.

Ramirez credits her scientific training with allowing her “to stare at an unknown and not run away, because I learned that this melding of uncertainty and curiosity is where innovation and creativity occur…”  

She added the important reminder that in these fields, “…failure is a fact of life.
The whole process of discovery is trial and error.
When you innovate, you fail your way to your answer.
You make a series of choices that don’t work until you find the one that does.
Discoveries are made one failure at a time…We just brand it differently. We call it data.”

Artists understand this trial-and-error process and the challenge of tolerating ambiguity and enduring lack of “success” until persistence enables insightful experimentation that leads to satisfying resolution.

Vi Hart

Vi Hart

STEAM practitioners include Vi Hart, “recreational mathemusician” at Khan Academy, who doodles explanations of fractal fractions aka abacabadabacaba, Fibonacci sequences in plants, Pythagorean Theorem via origami, and binary trees illustrated by Turducken, Mobius strips via the story of Wind, Mr. Ug and the big earthquake

Robert Lang

Robert Lang

Robert Lang, former CalTech physicist, merges mathematics, engineering, computing, and aesthetics to fold complex origami forms by “discovering underlying law” – just as Ainissa Ramirez suggested.

Robert Lang - Origami FishHe is a prolific artist, with paper and metal forms in public and private collections around the world, while advancing origami mathematics, computational origami,and applied origami technology in engineering, industrial design, and technology in general.

Lang advises that “the secret to productivity in so many fields — and in origami — is letting dead people do your work for you.” by building on discoveries in other fields to develop solutions to current problems.

Ron Eglash

Ron Eglash

“Ethnomathematician” Ron Eglash of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, showed that  African design in architecture, art, hair braiding, are based on perfect fractal patterns in which parts looks like the whole via recursive self-similar cycles.

Ron Eglash Fractal African Hair BraidingHe teaches mathematical concepts by drawing on students’ cultural backgrounds to translate mathematical ideas already present in the cultural practices, such as transformational geometry in cornrow hair braiding, spiral arcs in graffiti, least common multiples in percussion rhythms, and analytic geometry in Native American beadwork.

Raymond Chandler

Raymond Chandler

American detective writer (and former oil executive), Raymond Chandler, summarized the reciprocal contributions of science and art:

There are two kinds of truth: the truth that lights the way and the truth that warms the heart.
The first of these is science, and the second is art.
Neither is independent of the other or more important than the other.
Without art science would be as useless as a pair of high forceps in the hands of a plumber. Without science art would become a crude mess of folklore and emotional quackery.
The truth of art keeps science from becoming inhuman, and the truth of science keeps art from becoming ridiculous.

 -*How do you combine insights from other fields to shed fresh perspective on challenging dilemmas?

-*How do you persist until new variations on trial solutions succeed in resolving issues?

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