Mathematical bias and the gender gap

According to Unicef, more than half of children under the age of ten worldwide do not have good reading comprehension, and evidence collected by the organization in recent years shows that the closure of several schools around the world due to the covid -19 pandemic will deepen this crisis in training. If you start to evaluate the abilities of minors in mathematics, the crisis is even more critical and alarming.

Basic literacy and numeracy have been shown to be as important to life as social-emotional skills. Reading can almost be considered a great pillar of development because it can be said to mark the entrance to the study of other subjects. Now, if we talk about digital skills, we can emphasize their importance because they lay the foundation for problem solving, logical thinking and critical thinking. So the more young people develop these important skills, the easier it is to succeed in school.

In a recent investigation conducted by UNICEF titled “Solving the Equation: Helping Girls and Boys Learn Maths,” found that even in pre-pandemic times, the situation was already alarming. With data before the onset of covid-19, it was possible to determine that in 34 low-middle-income countries, 75% of children in grade 4 failed to acquire basic math skills, while in 79 middle-income countries with high , this are almost 35% of children under the age of 15 who have not yet reached minimum skills in this matter.

Thus, the wealthiest households would be 1.8 times more likely to acquire math skills than low-income households. But the gap goes above and beyond economic differences, including gender differences. With more recent data covering more than 100 countries, it was shown that boys are 1.3 times more likely to acquire math skills than girls.

The problem is that these gender stereotypes about undervaluing girls for developing math skills are ingrained in various actors such as teachers, classmates, and even parents themselves, which contributes to the learning disparity. There is a lot of talk about women’s empowerment and how important it is, but this type of bias that is passed down from a very young age to girls and boys is a problem that needs to be addressed and needs to be refined so that it doesn’t continue passed down from generation to generation.

In fact, in the 2015 Trends in Math and Science Survey (TIMSS), girls and boys surveyed were asked how good they thought they were at math; The results showed that, on average, boys reported greater confidence in their math skills than girls. Of course, this is a factor that affects their future education and greatly affects their vocation as professionals.

In other words, boys and girls who feel fairly confident in their mathematical abilities are more likely to be interested in careers that heavily involve this science; But those who doubted their abilities or even lacked confidence in their numerical abilities would stay as far away as possible from careers that involve math. Unfortunately, the study also shows that even among boys and girls who report the same level of math confidence and performance, girls choose math careers less.

This can lead to an irreversible loss of talent in fields such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), to name a few. In fact, women who dare to continue their education in fields such as engineering or pure sciences have to break many stereotypes and face many situations of dismissal and even harassment in educational, work and even family environments.

Today, aspects such as digital transformation, big data, the Internet of Things or artificial intelligence have increased the demand for professionals with exceptional skills in the field of mathematics. However, job opportunities are not limited to technological fields, as they are also profiles needed for their great capacity for analysis, synthesis and high adaptability in the banking sector, engineering such as biomedical and chemical, B2C and B2B industries and for Of course, the educational sector for those who have a teaching vocation or a particular taste for research.

In itself, there are thousands of opportunities for this type of profile in the world of work and, unfortunately, the gender gap is a problem that persists even in profiles that are so sought after and above all scarce today. We know well that girls and boys learn better when they are healthy, when they are well fed and when they have safe and inclusive classrooms, the latter a criterion that includes encouragement from an early age not only in school classrooms but also in homes – the development of social and emotional skills that succeed in dispelling stereotypes and therefore inequality in learning.

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