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Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering
SJR: 0.468 SNIP: 0.671 CiteScore™: 1.65

ISSN Print: 1072-8325
ISSN Online: 1940-431X

Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering

DOI: 10.1615/JWomenMinorScienEng.2018020357
pages 25-52

"I’M IN THE MATHEMATICAL SCIENCES BECAUSE…" EXAMINING UNDERREPRESENTED STUDENTS’ MOTIVATIONS FOR PURSUING MATH

Lisa Skultety
College of Education, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1310 S. Sixth Street, Champaign, Illinois 61820, USA
Casey E. George
University of Louisville, College of Education and Human Development, 1905 S. First Street, Louisville, Kentucky 40292, USA

ABSTRACT

For decades, researchers have attempted to unlock the mystery behind the continued underrepresentation of key groups in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields. While findings often point to complex and intersecting individual and contextual factors, rarely do such studies directly (and simply) ask underrepresented students why they are in the STEM fields. The current study gives voice to the reasons mathematically-talented, underrepresented, domestic students pursue postsecondary degrees in the mathematical sciences, which are an important subset of the larger STEM fields. Analysis of qualitative data gathered through an online survey reveals that students' reasons for pursuing their degrees are due to their affinity and attitudes towards math, previous personal experiences, engagement with mathematics, and view of the utility of mathematics. Perhaps most striking were the ways in which students described mathematics and their attraction to the nature of math as a field. Implication for practitioners, including how the characteristics of math are communicated to students, and recommendations for future research, which focus on the importance of considering the nature of math, are discussed.


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