Assessing and Improving Girls' and Women's Math Identity (2022-2023)


The gender gap in STEM fields exists at all levels, from childhood through career selection, and there are many different, but often related, causes for female underrepresentation. One major cause of the gender gap is women’s and girls’ math identity — their beliefs, attitudes and emotions about math and STEM. This identity can negatively influence their interest and motivation in STEM fields, even if their own abilities and performance demonstrate strength in these areas. 

Building awareness of factors that contribute negatively to math identity will help empower and encourage girls and women to persist in STEM fields.

Project Description

Building on the work of previous teams, this project team will investigate internal and external factors that contribute to students’ math identities and increase awareness of these factors. The team will implement a series of free workshops for middle school girls in Durham to address causes of the gender gap in STEM.

Team members will work together to improve a curriculum consisting of hands-on, problem-based math material designed to help participants visualize, explore and discover concepts, along with age-appropriate social science discussions and activities on gender and STEM topics such as stereotypes, self-assessment and mindset.

Team members will also collaborate with the Innovation Co-Lab to lead and assess a summer workshop curriculum that focuses on spatial reasoning training. All workshops will be led by female-identifying students, who will serve as positive role models of women in STEM fields. 

To develop and assess curricula, team members will pool and analyze previously collected survey data assessing middle school girls’ math identity. This research will expand to assess beliefs among middle school students who are not participating in workshops, so that program impacts can be compared to a wider control group. 

The team will create new survey instruments to validate training and assessment materials. Some team members will also focus their research on examining ways to effectively connect workshop materials with topics that participants study in the classroom.

Anticipated Outputs

Workshop curriculum; team website; literature database; informational resources for parents; undergraduate-authored publication 

Student Opportunities

Ideally, this team will be comprised of 2 graduate students and 15 undergraduate students. It is critical that all participants are comfortable leading math-centered discussions. A strong team will include students from a diverse set of majors and/or career interests, including math, STEM fields, education, psychology and gender studies. All participants should be comfortable, professional and approachable with middle school-aged girls.

Students will interact directly with workshop participants, gaining experience in education settings. These skills can be applied to other educational and/or teaching activities as well as in future careers requiring strong communication and critical thinking skills. The math problems discussed in workshops are both challenging and accessible to students of all levels, so students will strengthen their problem-solving skills by exploring the related mathematical concepts. Students will also develop research skills in the context of program assessment and survey instrumentation. Because the program incorporates discussion and study of a diverse range of topics, participants at all learner levels will gain a deeper understanding of an area that is new to them.  

Workshops will meet on Saturdays during the academic school year and on weekdays during the summer. Undergraduate students will meet weekly throughout the fall semester to prepare for workshops. In Fall 2022, the team will meet on Tuesdays from 3:30-4:45 p.m.

Weekly meetings will continue during workshop semesters, as participants meet to contribute and gather workshop feedback. Subteams will work on smaller projects, including survey design, social media presence and relevant literature reviews. A student eligible for work-study will be chosen to manage administrative planning duties, including registration and parent/guardian waivers of middle school participants. 

One graduate student will serve as the project manager to work in tandem with the work-study student on administrative tasks and large-scale program planning. 


Fall 2022 – Summer 2023

  • Fall 2022: Draft survey instruments; commence research and discussion trainings; refine workshop curriculum; maintain social media outreach; advertise spring workshops
  • Spring 2023: Commence Saturday workshops; begin data analysis 
  • Summer 2023 (optional): Coordinate and implement summer workshops 


Academic credit available for fall and spring semesters; summer funding available

See earlier related team, Assessing and Improving Girls’ and Women’s Math Identity (2021-2022).


Image: Courtesy of 2018-19 project team

Working on math.

Team Leaders

  • Victoria Akin, Arts & Sciences-Mathematics
  • Suzanne Crifo, Academic Resource Center
  • Sophia Santillan, Pratt School of Engineering-Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Dana (Chip) Bobbert II, Academic Services and Research Computing
  • Lauren Valentino, The Ohio State University
  • Christina L. Williams, Arts & Sciences-Psychology and Neuroscience

/zcommunity Team Members

  • Durham Public Schools