ERIC Number: EJ765929
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2007-Jun
Reference Count: 60
Poor Performance in Mathematics: Is There a Basis for a Self-Worth Explanation for Women?
Thompson, Ted; Dinnel, Dale L.
Educational Psychology, v27 n3 p377-399 Jun 2007
The self-worth theory of achievement motivation holds that in situations in which poor performance is likely to reveal low ability, certain students (known as self-worth protective students) intentionally withdraw effort in order to avoid the negative implications of poor performance in terms of damage to self-worth. In this study, evidence of self-worth protection was sought where it is perhaps least likely to be seen: in women in mathematics, where the negative effects of stereotype threat are suggested. Links between self-worth protection and performance on three maths tasks (a computational task, an algebraic task, and the Tower of Hanoi, a game-like task tapping into mathematical skills yet devoid of mathematical signs and symbols) and a verbal task (a remote associates task) were examined in an intellectually evaluative situation (following failure) and in an intellectually non-evaluative situation (following success). Relative to low maths self-worth protective students, high maths self-worth protective students performed poorly on both mathematical tasks, but not on either the Tower of Hanoi or the remote associates test. Collectively, findings are consistent with the conclusion that a self-worth explanation can be applied to the poor performance of women in mathematics. Critical eliciting conditions appear to be mathematical signs and symbols and the presence of evaluative threat. (Contains 2 tables.)
Descriptors: Symbols (Mathematics), Economically Disadvantaged, Females, Achievement Need, Self Esteem, Mathematics Instruction, Mathematics Anxiety, Risk, Gender Differences, Stereotypes, Undergraduate Students, Mathematical Aptitude, Mathematical Logic
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education; Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Assessments and Surveys: Remote Associates Test