Sex and race differences in mathematics aptitude: Effects of Schooling

Elsie Moore, A. Wade Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The differential course-work hypothesis posits that intergroup differences in mathematics aptitude result from differences between groups in both the extent and type of in-school exposure to mathematics and to related quantitatively oriented courses. Differential course-work effects on gender differences in mathematics aptitude are ambiguous, and research on racial differences is limited. This article examines the extent of the reduction in sex and race differences in mathematics competence when accounting for course-work in high school. The findings indicate that the previously more-researched sex differences in mathematics competence may or may not be significantly reduced when course work is controlled, depending on which component of mathematics competence is measured. However, racial differences in all components of mathematics competence are significantly reduced when racial differences in exposure to relevant high school course work are taken into account. These findings imply that simply increasing the exposure of females to math-related high school courses may not be sufficient to reduce sex differences in all aspects of mathematics aptitude. However, standardizing the math (and related) curricula of blacks to that of whites could potentially improve all aspects of black students’ mathematics performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)77-100
Number of pages24
JournalSociological Perspectives
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1986

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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