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Abstract / Synopsis

The purpose of this study was to investigate what motivates women to choose mathematics as an undergraduate major and to further explore what shapes their future career goals, paying particular attention to their undergraduate experiences and their perceptions of the role of gender in these decisions. A series of semi-structured, individual interviews were conducted with twelve undergraduate women mathematics majors who were attending either a large public university or a small liberal arts college. This study found that strong mathematical identities and enjoyment of mathematics heavily influenced their decisions to major in mathematics. At the career selection stage, these women desired careers that are service-oriented, social in nature, and involved mathematical applications. For those planning to become teachers, the desire to help others predominantly influenced their career decision. Many of the non-teaching majors were unaware of mathematical careers other than teaching that satisfied these career qualities. Implications of these results with respect to women’s participation in mathematics are discussed.

DOI

10.5642/jhummath.201501.03

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© Katrina Piatek-Jimenez

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