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"I'm Not Good at Math," She Said.

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


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Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Women in Engineering Division Technical Session 8

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

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Astrid K Northrup P.E. Northwest College, Powell WY Orcid 16x16

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Astrid Northrup earned her B.S. degree in petroleum engineering from the Montana College of Mineral Science and Technology (Montana Tech) in 1984 and her M.S degree in petroleum engineering from Montana Tech in 1986. She also earned a Certificate in Land Surveying from the University of Wyoming in 2005. She is a registered Professional Engineer in Colorado and Wyoming. She worked in the petroleum industry as a reservoir engineer and as a private consultant before moving into a teaching career at Northwest College in Powell WY, where she is Professor of Engineering Science and Mathematics and Division Chair of Physical Science. She is pursuing a Ph.D in Science Education at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. She is married to David and has three adult sons.

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Andrea Carneal Burrows Borowczak University of Wyoming Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Andrea C. Burrows is an Associate Professor at the University of Wyoming (UW) in the College of Education's (CoEd) School of Teacher Education. She received her doctorate degree from the University of Cincinnati in 2011. She was awarded the UW CoEd Early Career Fellowship (2013), UW CoEd Faculty Award for Outstanding Research and Scholarship (2015), UW CoEd Faculty Award for Outstanding Service to the Education Profession (2016), UW CoEd Honored Fall Convocation Faculty (2017), and UW CoEd Faculty Award for Outstanding Research and Scholarship (2019). Since beginning at UW, Burrows has written, implemented, or evaluated over 50 unique grants. She has been the Program Director for GenCyber as well as PI of NSF grants for STEM and CS work. The core of her research agenda is to deepen science, mathematics, engineering, and technology (STEM) partnership involvement and understanding through STEM interdisciplinary integration with in-service teacher professional development (PD) and pre-service teacher coursework. Her research agenda is composed of a unified STEM education partnership structure and connects educational research to real-world practices. Burrows’ many publications appear in leading journals. She is the Co-Editor of CITE-Journal Science ( She is active and presents in several organizations such as AERA, ASEE, ASTE, NSTA, and SITE. Before beginning her work in higher education, she taught secondary school science for 12 years in Florida and Virginia (USA). 

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Women of all ages underestimate their abilities in math and science. This paper presents evidence that girls are awesome at math and science, and they make great engineers. This paper focuses on data that suggest women underestimate their math and science abilities, and suggests that women are actually good at math. At every age, women believe they are worse at math than they are, and also that they are worse than their male classmates. Women are also victims of a stereotype threat that has been reproduced in many studies. Even when women are given equal opportunities to men, they tend to self-select and decide that they aren’t as good at math as men and choose not to pursue engineering as a field of study. This paper explores some of the causes of this phenomenon, as well as ideas for reversing the trend, beginning in early childhood and continuing through high school. The antecedents of this skewed perception go back to childhood, and the author presents original data indicating that family of origin configuration can be a predictor of choice of college major, especially for women choosing engineering as their major. Data also shows that high school girls outperform high school boys in several measures of math attainment, and yet remain convinced that boys are better at math. This underestimation of ability leads to few women pursuing engineering, and a perennial under-representation of women in the field. The author integrates the finding from studies that indicate self-perception of ability, rather than ability itself, is the main barrier to women when it comes to studying engineering and physical science.

Northrup, A. K., & Borowczak, A. C. B. (2020, June), "I'm Not Good at Math," She Said. Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--33962

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