An Investigation of STEM Career Diversity in High School Mathematics Textbooks

Alexis Di Pasqua, Evelyn Pohle, Emily Rumaldo, and Dr. Marzocchi, Department of Mathematics, California State University Fullerton, 800 N State College Blvd, Fullerton, CA 92831

Our research investigates the human presence within high school mathematics textbooks, with an eye towards diversity in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers. Past research indicates that certain groups (particularly women and people of color) are underrepresented in mathematics textbooks. Perhaps not surprisingly, similar underrepresentation is seen within STEM professions. It is important to research high school mathematics textbooks to see whether underrepresented groups are being fairly represented during a pivotal time in students’ STEM education; high school students are making decisions on their future path including their college major. Members of our research team conducted a study on the human presence in precalculus textbooks which indicated a lack of representation of women and people of color in STEM careers. Our project builds on the precalculus research by expanding to all honors mathematics courses within a given high school district. To conduct this research, we will use a tested and reliable coding hierarchy to code each exercise for human presence; we examine characters’ genders, names, and if they are portrayed in a STEM career. Based on pilot data, we conjecture that we will find a lack of representation of women and people of color within the coded textbooks. We anticipate that we might see inequities in the population groups portrayed in STEM careers. Our research will have long term and short term implications. It will take time for textbook authors and publishers to improve representation within their textbooks. In the meantime, teachers can be made aware of the issues with representation in the textbooks, and can deliberately include examples of diverse professionals in their courses. We will provide suggestions for teachers and textbook authors to modify exercises to be more inclusive. In the long run, the textbooks can help to improve diversity in STEM rather than hindering it.

Additional Abstract Information

Presenters: Alexis Di Pasqua , Emily Rumaldo, Evelyn Pohle

Institution: California State University - Fullerton

Type: Poster

Subject: Mathematics

Status: Approved

Time and Location

Session: Poster 8
Date/Time: Tue 5:00pm-6:00pm
Session Number: 5569