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Morán-Soto, G.; González-Peña, O.I. Mathematics Anxiety and Self-Efficacy of Engineering Students. Encyclopedia. Available online: https://encyclopedia.pub/entry/24873 (accessed on 10 August 2024).

Morán-Soto G, González-Peña OI. Mathematics Anxiety and Self-Efficacy of Engineering Students. Encyclopedia. Available at: https://encyclopedia.pub/entry/24873. Accessed August 10, 2024.

Morán-Soto, Gustavo, Omar Israel González-Peña. "Mathematics Anxiety and Self-Efficacy of Engineering Students" *Encyclopedia*, https://encyclopedia.pub/entry/24873 (accessed August 10, 2024).

Morán-Soto, G., & González-Peña, O.I. (2022, July 06). Mathematics Anxiety and Self-Efficacy of Engineering Students. In *Encyclopedia*. https://encyclopedia.pub/entry/24873

Morán-Soto, Gustavo and Omar Israel González-Peña. "Mathematics Anxiety and Self-Efficacy of Engineering Students." *Encyclopedia*. Web. 06 July, 2022.

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There is a gender gap in jobs associated with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) areas, favoring the male workforce, and the literature suggests that this gender gap starts to show in STEM-related high school courses, where a decrease in the population of women is observed. Likewise, it has been shown that the decision of women to study a STEM career is highly influenced by self-efficacy that weighs a relationship with the work, social, and family environment, even though they may have good grades in STEM-related courses.

STEM education
higher education
educational innovation
gender equality
women in STEM
math
women in science

The percentage of female representation in 2017 in higher education was 45% in science, technology, engineering, and athmematics (STEM) areas, and only 20% of the workforce in the industrial sector of technology were women ^{[1]}. These numbers suggest that most of the women who complete a STEM major usually take a different professional direction away from STEM-related activities, and this trend is similar in academic professionals, where only 28% of women in STEM areas are working in this field ^{[2]}. This issue is similar in different cultures and contexts, and countries such as the United States have reported that, even though 57% of their higher education graduates are women, only 39% of their graduates from STEM areas are women ^{[3]}^{[4]}. This gender gap in the STEM student population needs to be addressed, aiming to attract more young women to STEM fields, which ultimately should help to increase the female workforce in STEM professions, since women present a higher rate of terminal efficiency in completing their studies than men ^{[3]}^{[5]}.

Another issue in the disparity associated with the low participation of women in studying STEM areas consists of their small rate of representation in leadership positions. Only a small fraction of these leadership positions in STEM fields is represented by women, and less than 19% of women earning a doctorate degree in STEM fields are considered to take a place in these kinds of positions ^{[3]}^{[6]}.

According to the 2030 agenda of the sustainable development goals of the United Nations, society must develop initiatives from the labor sector and the government to generate equal opportunities regardless of gender (objective 5) ^{[7]}. If modern societies want to fulfill this goal, they should be more committed to reversing the stereotyped perception that STEM areas are not associated with women’s job success ^{[7]}.

For all mentioned above, it is clear that more engineers must be educated to be able to address society’s most relevant problems through the development of new technologies. Many countries are employing strategies to attract and retain engineering students regardless of a specific gender ^{[8]}^{[9]}, and some others are showing a special interest in attracting more females to engineering majors due to their under-representation in this field ^{[10]}^{[11]}^{[12]}.

In order to have better practices for more inclusive teaching with a focus on gender equity and opportunities for women in the areas of STEM education, it is necessary to develop a better understanding of the main factors that may influence students’ selection of STEM majors. For instance, it has been observed that students who show confidence in science, as well as having an ability and passion for solving technical problems, will be more inclined to choose STEM-related majors and professional paths ^{[13]}. The literature suggests that more variables could influence students’ selection of STEM-related majors, and some variables could include the self-efficacy of the students for these subjects, the positive persuasion of the tutors in the students when they are minors, the perceived interest of classmates in STEM, the positive memories that students have acquired in the previous learning of STEM classes, as well as the participation that students have in extracurricular activities or informal STEM programs ^{[14]}. To the list, the attitudes of students towards STEM classes and their motivation towards science are also added ^{[15]}.

The literature suggests that high math self-efficacy is related to increased interest in pursuing a math-related major ^{[16]}^{[17]}. On the other hand, students with low math self-efficacy are more likely to avoid math-related activities, making it more difficult to overcome struggles they may experience in their math courses ^{[18]}^{[19]}. Students with high math self-efficacy are more likely to perform well in their math courses and persist in math-related tasks even if they experience struggles learning complex math topics ^{[20]}^{[21]}. The relevance of math self-efficacy beliefs and their influence on students’ performance in math courses is well-documented, and it is consistent in different contexts, cultures, and populations ^{[22]}^{[23]}^{[24]}. Although there are abundant studies about math self-efficacy, there is very little research focusing on how math self-efficacy can affect engineering students’ performance in math courses and their motivation to successfully complete their major. This issue is important because math self-efficacy is a relevant factor that could influence students’ performance in their math courses, which ultimately could affect their decision to continue with their engineering major in the case that they struggle to understand complicated math topics ^{[25]}^{[26]}. The literature suggests that students’ math self-efficacy was lower for students leaving engineering majors ^{[27]}, and this factor was more significant for students leaving college during their first semesters ^{[28]}. Hence, retaining students that are enrolled in engineering degree programs is of paramount importance to be able to meet the global technology workforce’s increasing demand ^{[29]}.

Previous studies have found that the math self-efficacy beliefs of men are significantly stronger than those of women, and these findings seem to be similar in different contexts and populations ^{[16]}^{[30]}^{[31]}. Female students usually report lower math self-efficacy beliefs than male students even after performing better in their math courses, achieving similar or even better grades than their male peers ^{[32]}^{[33]}^{[34]}. This math self-efficacy gender difference favoring male students could lead female students to perform at different levels than their male peers even if they have similar math abilities, making them more likely to face difficulties when performing math and jeopardizing their possibilities to complete the math courses required for an engineering major ^{[33]}.

Math anxiety is linked to students’ perceptions of low math ability, prior unsuccessful experiences, and lack of studying or test preparation skills ^{[35]}^{[36]}. Math anxiety comprises a set of feelings that affect students’ performance in math that may lead to the avoidance of math courses and math-related activities ^{[35]}^{[36]}. High math anxiety has been identified as a significant predictor of poor math performance and is also negatively correlated with the decision to pursue a math-related major ^{[37]}^{[38]}. Although moderate anxiety levels may actually facilitate performance and motivate students academically, high anxiety may hinder students’ performance and interest in certain academic activities ^{[39]}. Students’ math anxiety levels could be influenced by the importance they attribute to performing well in math, especially if their academic success involves completing many courses that use math as a tool to solve problems ^{[40]}^{[41]}.

Although male and female students seem to place equal importance on math-related activities and courses in their academic preparation, female students have shown to be more likely to report feelings of stress and anxiety when they perform math ^{[42]}^{[43]}^{[44]}. This math anxiety gender gap is more evident in college students, with female college students reporting higher math anxiety levels than males ^{[45]}. In contrast, research on younger populations such as primary school students rarely reports gender differences in math anxiety ^{[45]}. These findings suggest that the math anxiety gender gap emerges at the secondary level, showing that female students experience more anxiety when performing math-related activities than males when they are facing higher educational demands ^{[46]}. High math anxiety could negatively influence females in their decisions to take math courses or to become involved in math-related activities, making them less likely to pursue a math-related major such as engineering ^{[11]}^{[47]}.

The literature suggests an inverse relationship between students’ math self-efficacy and math anxiety ^{[48]}, and the independence of these two constructs has been questioned in previous research ^{[49]}^{[50]}. As these two constructs are closely related ^{[51]}, it is important to conduct more research aiming to better understand the effects of these constructs on students of different populations, cultural contexts, and languages with instruments studies with high reliability and validity such as in the case for Latino societies ^{[52]}, among others that are stragglers on this matter. Findings of this research could help math and engineering educators to determine how math self-efficacy and math anxiety interact and affect each other in populations such as college students. In addition, it would help them to develop strategies with the goal of decreasing the high attrition rates in majors such as engineering ^{[52]}^{[53]} and to address the gender gap issue in students’ math self-efficacy and anxiety ^{[34]}^{[45]}. Failing to address the current difference between male and female feelings when performing math-related activities may continue to send the wrong message to female students, and could ultimately jeopardize their potential interest in math-related majors such as engineering ^{[54]}.

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