The latest research on the gender gap in math achievement has yielded surprising results. Adding to a growing body of evidence for the influence of gender biases on student performance, the study found that a female teacher’s math background has a disproportionate effect on the learning outcomes of her female students. Girls taught by a female teacher tended to see their math test scores drop by 4.7 percentage points by the end of the year, but this effect disappeared for girls whose female teachers had a strong educational background in math; in fact, girls performed at their best under highly trained female math instructors. Interestingly, boys’ math performances were not affected by the gender of their teachers.
The study highlights the importance of overcoming pervasive stereotypes and building girls’ confidence in their math potential. The Institute of Education Sciences has released a guide, Encouraging Girls in Math and Science, that offers practical recommendations for teachers to use in the classroom. Parents and teachers can also start a club to foster girls’ interest in math; learn more about Girls Excelling in Math and Science (GEMS) clubs here.