Doctoral student will use grant to challenge stereotypes of students in math

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Weverton Ataide Pinheiro

Weverton Ataide Pinheiro, a Ph.D. student in Mathematics Education, has been awarded a research grant to study why graduate mathematics continues to be a male-dominated field.

Current data shows college-level math courses include even numbers of men and women – but that number decreases drastically when looking at who pursues a doctorate program in mathematics: 90-95% of all doctoral mathematics students are men. 

“Research has shown that mathematics and mathematical related jobs are still connected to most high-paying jobs. Therefore not having women in the mathematics field causes an unbalance in the market force, and in the end men are privileged and keep occupying most of the positions of power in our society,” Ataide Pinheiro added.

As an undergraduate student in Brazil, Ataide Pinheiro noticed most of his mathematics professors were white, straight men. In a study he conducted last year about the experiences of undergraduate students in college mathematics, his students who identify as women student brought up gender prejudice in mathematics and the difficulty to be in a field with almost no other women.

Making these changes is the only way to have a field that can welcome people from different genders, and consequently, diminish the lack of diversity mathematics currently sustains.

Weverton Ataide Pinheiro

This study, funded through a grant from MAXQDA, will use observation and interviews, with the hope that theproject could lay the groundwork for intervention studies that help to deconstruct the notion of the ideal mathematician. 

“I am confident that the voices of these women graduate mathematics students will reveal even more about how things are nowadays,” Ataide Pinheiro said. “Rather than focusing on the result, the field needs to focus on the process, different ways to bring proof and different ways for application. Making these changes … is the only way to have a field that can welcome people from different genders, and consequently, diminish the lack of diversity mathematics currently sustains.”

Ataide Pinheiro’s interest in math started in junior high school when he realized he had a gift for the subject. After completing his undergraduate degree, he chose to pursue a Ph.D. not only because he wanted to teach math, but because he was interested in how to teach conceptually meaningful mathematics for pre-service and in-service teachers and students.

“I hope to start a conversation that can bring close mathematicians and society to reflect on the consequences of holding back women to advance in the mathematical fields. Mathematics is still taught in ways that privilege masculinities. Therefore, what does not fit into masculinities are left out of mathematics,” he said.