The first generation of research explored the disabling beliefs and behaviors of females. Beliefs that were uncovered were:
The above are internalized and determine the student's behavior.
Learning attribution theory plays an important role. Even when girls succeed, they never take their success with confidence. Girls attribute success to external variables. The chart below explains that when males succeed, they attribute their success to ability and when females succeed, they attribute their success to luck. When males fail, the failure is attributed to not enough effort, and when females fail, the failure is attributed to not enough ability.
|Males||Ability||Not enough effort|
|Females||Luck||Not enough ability|
Tobias has done extensive research work on math anxiety. The diagrams below are drawn to be symbolic diagrams of brain functions. With normal cognition, the information is inputted, flowing through the process pathways, and on into the memory pathways of the brain. If the input information encounters emotional overlays, the output memory pathway is harder to reach.
When information is input, girls tend to have lots of emotional overlay so that memory cannot be accessed. She cited Elizabeth Fennema's work concerning autonomous learning behavior: girls are torn between being agreeable, complacent, and feminine as opposed to aggressive, assertive and autonomous. In order to succeed, the latter attributes of aggressiveness, assertiveness, and autonomy are the most desirable. Scientists, on the other hand, require obedience to their demands in their advanced studies.
The second generation of work explored more classroom conditions. What was found were negative conditions and "chilly climate" issues. She cited the AAUW report based in part on Myra and David Sadker's work on male/female studies with teacher behaviors. Boys tend to get more attention in classrooms than females. She also cited her own work, which studied the belief systems of experts that get in the way of, and cut students off from, their disciplines.
The predominant question still remains, "Who will do math/science?" In her work, Tobias stratified groups of students into categories. The students who traditionally love math/science and usually go on in these fields, she labeled as "us." The rest of the group, she labeled as "them." This latter group can be even further subdivided in tiers. The second tier group are the very verbal group of students who might go on to be lawyers, linguists, political scientists, etc. The next tier are labeled the least focused or "utilitarian," who learn just enough to pass the test, exam, or course. The fourth tier is the "underprepared" and the last group are the "unlikelies," who at times might seem hostile. Our task, as teachers is differentiate among the tiers.
Females are found in all tiers and predominantly in the second tier. Anything we do to improve the quality of math/science must come from a view that women have a right to insist on change. The students in the second tier are both male and female. They have
Research investigated the perspectives and complaints of students concerning their course work. What they found was that the student perceptions of math/science classes were:
In terms of noncognitive issues, Tobias shared the findings that the students' perceptions in math/science classes were:
In order to encourage teachers to attend to the needs of the second tier, Tobias suggested that they construct an enthusiastic support group for math/science. This second tier group of students will be the power brokers in the future. Teachers must gain their confidence.
After an exercise in trying to solve math puzzles written by her father, Tobias asked that we write our feelings about what we were experiencing while trying to solve each puzzle. The directive was to put yourself as the learner and focus on yourself. Explore your feelings. She cited Polya's seven step method of problem solving; however, this seems to be a top down approach. She is more in favor of a three step approach.
Problem solving is getting inside the problem and figuring out what to do. Floundering can be very creative.
Feelings are very important. We must ask what is making this problem difficult and how can we make this problem easier. This also encourages an assertive behavior. Will power, focus, discipline, and efficiency bring about confidence? Confidence will bring about success, especially in math/science.
Tobias reviewed the symbolic abnormal cognition diagram of the brain covered earlier. The problem is that, because of math anxiety, the process pathways are filled with "static." The students have learned the material, yet they are unable to retrieve it. Why do colleges and universities continue to remediate freshman students in math classes? A solution to help in this retrieval process of material is to:
Tobias also shared the Education Development Corp. film on math anxiety. Students in the film shared some of their concerns with math. There is no one right way to solve a problem!
I AM _______________IN MATH/SCIENCE.
I NEED ______________IN MATH/SCIENCE.
(A) teaches (B)
(B) must repeat lesson
(C) critiques before and after