Sex Roles

, Volume 66, Issue 3–4, pp 191–196 | Cite as

New Directions for Research on the Role of Parents and Teachers in the Development of Gender-Related Math Attitudes: Response to Commentaries

  • Elizabeth A. Gunderson
  • Gerardo Ramirez
  • Susan C. Levine
  • Sian L. Beilock
Feminist Forum


We frame our response to the commentaries by Cheryan (2011), Lane (2011), and Shapiro and Williams (2011), in terms of two broad points made by Lane (2011). First, we agree that the various constructs that we termed “math attitudes”—including math-gender stereotypes, math anxiety, math self-concepts, and achievement motivation in math—are in fact distinct (Gunderson et al. 2011b). Nevertheless, we argue that investigating common mechanisms underlying the transmission of these constructs from adults to children is a productive approach because it can lead to general interventions to boost children’s performance and dispositions toward math. Second, we argue that research on the development of gender-related math attitudes exists at the intersection of multiple research areas, including research on attitudes (broadly defined), math, gender, social learning, and child development, and that drawing on well-developed theories in these areas can lead to novel research questions and predictions. The three excellent commentaries broaden the scope of our article on gender-related math attitudes to include the transmission of implicit attitudes from adults to children, stereotype threat, and gender roles in math-related careers (Cheryan 2011; Gunderson et al. 2011b; Lane 2011; Shapiro and Williams 2011).


Math attitudes Gender stereotypes Math anxiety Parents Teachers Math 


  1. Ambady, N., Shih, M., Kim, A., & Pittinsky, T. L. (2001). Stereotype susceptibility in children: Effects of identity activation on quantitative performance. Psychological Science, 12, 385–390. doi: 10.1111/1467-9280.00371.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Battista, M. (1986). The relationship of mathematics anxiety and mathematical knowledge to the learning of mathematical pedagogy by preservice elementary teachers. School Science and Mathematics, 86, 10–19. doi: 10.1111/j.1949-8594.1986.tb11580.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Beilock, S. L. (2008). Math performance in stressful situations. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 17, 339–343. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8721.2008.00602.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Beilock, S. L. (2011, September 7). Why pretty girls can’t do math. Choke: What the secrets of the brain reveal about getting it right when you have to. Retrieved from
  5. Beilock, S. L., Gunderson, E. A., Ramirez, G., & Levine, S. C. (2010). Female teachers’ math anxiety affects girls’ math achievement. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 107, 1860–1863. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0910967107.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brady, P., & Bowd, A. (2005). Mathematics anxiety, prior experience and confidence to teach mathematics among pre-service education students. Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, 11, 37–46. doi: 10.1080/1354060042000337084.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Castelli, L., Zogmaister, C., & Tomelleri, S. (2009). The transmission of racial attitudes within the family. Developmental Psychology, 45, 586–591. doi: 10.1037/a0014619.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cheryan, S. (2011). Understanding the paradox in math-related fields: Why do some gender gaps remain while others do not? Sex Roles, this issue. doi: 10.1007/s11199-011-0060-z
  9. Cimpian, A. (2010). The impact of generic language about ability on children’s achievement motivation. Developmental Psychology, 46, 1333–1340. doi: 10.1037/a0019665.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Diekman, A. B., Brown, E., Johnston, A., & Clark, E. (2010). Seeking congruity between goals and roles: A new look at why women opt out of STEM careers. Psychological Science, 21, 1051–1057. doi: 10.1177/0956797610377342.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Eagly, A. H., & Chaiken, S. (1993). The psychology of attitudes. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.Google Scholar
  12. Fluck, S. A., Harrigan, J. A., & Brindley, J. (2001). Children and young adults’ recognition of anxiety. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 25, 127–146. doi: 10.1023/A:1010701828701.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gunderson, E. A., Gripshover, S. J., Romero, C., Dweck, C. S., Goldin-Meadow, S., & Levine, S. C. (2011a). Naturalistic variation in parents’ praise and the formation of children’s theories about trait stability. Paper presented at the Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Montreal, Canada.Google Scholar
  14. Gunderson, E. A., Ramirez, G., Levine, S. C., & Beilock, S. L. (2011b). The role of parents and teachers in the development of gender-related math attitudes. Sex Roles, this issue. doi: 10.1007/s11199-011-9996-2
  15. Lane, K. A. (2011). Being narrow while being broad: The importance of construct specificity and theoretical generality. Sex Roles, this issue. doi: 10.1007/s11199-011-0077-3.
  16. Martin, C. L., & Ruble, D. (2004). Children’s search for gender cues: Cognitive perspectives on gender development. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 13, 67–70. doi: 10.1111/j.0963-7214.2004.00276.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Park, D., Ramirez, G., & Beilock, S. L. (2011, May). Put your math burden down: Expressive writing for the highly math anxious. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Midwestern Psychological Association, Chicago, IL.Google Scholar
  18. Ramirez, G., & Beilock, S. L. (2011). Writing about testing worries boosts exam performance in the classroom. Science, 331, 211–213. doi: 10.1126/science.1199427.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Schmader, T., & Johns, M. (2003). Converging evidence that stereotype threat reduces working memory capacity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85, 440–452. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.85.3.440.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Shapiro, J. R. & Williams, A. M. (2011). The role of stereotype threats in undermining girls’ and women’s performance and interest in STEM fields. Sex Roles, this issue. doi: 10.1007/s11199-011-0051-0
  21. Shreve, E. G., Harrigan, J. A., Kues, J. R., & Kagas, D. K. (1988). Nonverbal expressions of anxiety in physician–patient interactions. Psychiatry: Interpersonal and Biological Processes, 5, 378–384.Google Scholar
  22. Sinclair, S., Dunn, E., & Lowrey, B. S. (2005). The relationship between parental racial attitudes and children’s implicit prejudice. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 41, 283–289. doi: 10.1016/j.jesp.2004.06.003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Swetman, D., Munday, R., & Windham, R. (1993). Math-anxious teachers: Breaking the cycle. College Student Journal, 27, 421–427.Google Scholar
  24. Thompson, A. G. (1984). The relationship of teachers’ conceptions of mathematics and mathematics teaching to instructional practice. Educational Studies in Mathematics, 15, 105–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Tomasetto, C., Alparone, F. R., & Cadinu, M. (2011). Girls’ math performance under stereotype threat: The moderating role of mothers’ gender stereotypes. Developmental Psychology, 47, 943–949. doi: 10.1037/a0024047.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Weisbuch, M., Pauker, K., & Ambady, N. (2009). The subtle transmission of race bias via televised nonverbal behavior. Science, 326, 1711–1714. doi: 10.1126/science.1178358.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elizabeth A. Gunderson
    • 1
  • Gerardo Ramirez
    • 1
  • Susan C. Levine
    • 1
  • Sian L. Beilock
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychology and Committee on EducationThe University of ChicagoChicagoUSA

Personalised recommendations