Above photo courtesy of Daniel Arauz

By: Kyle Palmer and Matt Hodapp

This week’s No Wrong Answers ‘Extra Credit’ edition is all about girls. Specifically, girls’ academic self-confidence in class. A new report published in the journal Science concludes negative stereotypes of girls lacking high intellectual ability start to be ingrained in students as young as kindergarten. Girls as young as six are far less likely than boys their age to believe girls are “really, really smart.”

What do your teachers see in their classes? How do they try to promote girls’ self-confidence?

Elaine Jardon, a middle school math teacher, says it begins at home. “Many times at parent-teacher conferences, I’ll have moms sit down and say, ‘Oh, I just wasn’t a math person.’ And I’ve yet to have a dad tell me they weren’t good at math. I think that absolutely passes on to kids. I have to actively work against the idea that there are ‘math people.’”

LuAnn Fox, a high school English teacher, says her school has a robust robotics programs that includes many girls. She says these girls act differently around school. “These are the girls who seem to have a deal of self-confidence: they move about at school maintaining eye contact, they smile more, they don’t need to have a boyfriend, they’re forward-thinking.”

Princeston Grayson, a middle school gifted and talented teacher and a majority-minority school, says he would like the Science report to have a follow-up study breaking gender responses down by race. “Because in my experience in large African-American settings, the girls are the more highly achieving compared to their male counterparts. I struggle more getting my boys engaged in class. The girls are often top of the class, more ambitious, applying to college, in school leadership.”

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