Girls Failed by Sexism, Gender Stereotypes in Maths Skill

Girls Failed by Sexism, Gender Stereotypes in Maths Skill

Who are good at Maths? A new report from the UNICEF says that boys are better than girls in mathematics, and that they have up to 1.3 times the odds of obtaining mathematics skills than girls.

In the report– Solving the equation: Helping girls and boys learn mathematics – UNICEF says that sexism and gender stereotypes as among the root causes for this disparity. In the new data analyses covering more than 100 countries and territories, the UN Agency said that negative gender norms and stereotypes often held by teachers, parents, and peers regarding girls’ innate inability to understand mathematics are contributing to the disparity. This also undermines girls’ self-confidence, setting them up for failure, the report notes.

Noting that girls have an equal ability to learn mathematics as boys, UNICEF Executive DirectorCatherine Russelsaid that they only lacked an equal opportunity to acquire these critical skills. “We need to dispel the gender stereotypes and norms that hold girls back – and do more to help every child learn the foundational skills they need to succeed in school and in life,” she said.

The UNICEF in the report pointed out that learning mathematics skills strengthens memory, comprehension, and analysis, in turn improving children’s ability to create.


In the analysis from 34 low- and middle-income countries, the authors said that three-quarters of schoolchildren in grade 4 are not obtaining foundational numeracy skills. Data from 79 middle- and high-income countries show more than a third of 15-year-old school children have yet to achieve minimum proficiency in mathematics.

The report shows that household wealth is also a determining factor. Schoolchildren from the richest households have 1.8 times the odds of acquiring numeracy skills by the time they reach fourth grade than children from the poorest households. Children who attend early childhood education and care programmes have up to 2.8 times the odds of achieving minimum proficiency in mathematics by the age of 15 than those who do not.


The UNICEF in the report said that the COVID-19 pandemic has likely exacerbated children’s mathematics abilities. Moreover, these analyses focus on girls and boys who are currently in school. In countries where girls are more likely to be out of school than boys, the overall disparities in mathematics proficiency are most likely even wider.


UNICEF has called on governments to commit to reaching all children with quality education. They urged new effort and investment to re-enroll and retain all children in school, to increase access to remedial and catchup learning, to support teachers and give them the tools they need, and to make sure that schools provide a safe and supportive environment so all children are ready to learn.

“With the learning of an entire generation of children at risk, this is not the time for empty promises. To transform education for every child, we need action and we need it now,” said Russell.


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