anxiety towards math than boys and have less belief in their ability, even
when they performed as well as boys.
This means that despite being equally capable, girls struggle more than
boys to believe they are successful in math. Furthermore, PISA found that
this math self-concept gap is even larger among top performers in math.
Girls, who are top performers in math, have even greater anxiety and less
belief in their abilities than boys who perform at a similar level (OECD,
In looking at high achieving students, Preckel, Goetz, Pekrun, and Kleine
(2008) examined the mathematics related attitudes (self-concept,
interest, and motivation) of both average and gifted 6th grade German
students. Preckel, et.al (2008) found that both average and gifted girls
reported lower self-concept and interest in mathematics, despite no
difference in math grades. Gifted girls’ scores were similar to average
boys and girls, gifted boys’ scores of self-concept and interest were
significantly higher than all other groups. The researchers noted:
“Females tend to estimate their mathematical competence lower than
their male counterparts do. And gifted females were no exception, in
spite of the fact that they earned equally good math grades as the gifted
boys” (p. 156).
Preckel, et.al (2008) put forth the assumption that there are societal
expectations that influence girls’ self-concept and this influence is
especially significant for high achieving girls. When considering societal
expectations, it is possible that there are many factors that influence girls’
self-concept. PISA reported that parents are more likely to expect sons
rather than daughters to work in STEM field (PISA, 2015).
Else-Quest, et.al. (2010) propose a Gender Stratification hypothesis, that
gender differences are closely related to cultural variations in
opportunity for girls and women. These researchers analyzed data from
prior PISA and TIMSS cycles and found that gender differences in math
achievement were negatively predicted by women’s shares in research
and political positions. Thus, the countries with more gender balance in