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Teachers unintentionally turn girls away from math and science, study finds

Here’s another reason to read science stories to your daughter at bedtime. Elementary school teachers may unintentionally discourage girls from pursuing math and sciences later in life, new research suggests.

According to a study conducted at Tel Aviv University and published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, these unconscious biases could help explain why so few girls and women ultimately choose classes and careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

However unintended these biases may be, they help to shape women’s career paths for years to come, said Edith Sand, an economist at the Bank of Israel and economics professor at Tel Aviv University.

“It isn’t an issue of discrimination but of unconscious discouragement,” Sand said in a released statement. “This discouragement, however, has implications. The track to computer science and engineering fields, which report some of the highest salaries, tapers off in elementary school.”

Researchers administered two tests to three groups of students in Israel who they tracked from the sixth grade through high school. One test was graded without student names, and the other was scored by someone who knew the students. Girls whose tests were objectively graded received better scores than boys, but the opposite was true in the tests submitted to teachers who knew the students, the study found.

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