Math isn’t black and’s more like boy v girl

by Vivian Diep in November 18th, 2022
Image of Virtual Classroom

Fine Tuning Virtual Classrooms for Equality

Wed Nov 16

Past research tells us that teachers, like everyone else, have biases. So what does that look like in virtual classrooms? Is it better or worse? Virtual classrooms have very simple interactions but are highly controllable, too. Could it help us unseat biases or at least help us examine them? To answer these questions and more, researchers studied 1,000 teachers (82.4% were female and 68.5% were White) in virtual classrooms.

They found that teachers were less likely to be biased when there was more information (less ambiguity). Teachers were tasked with evaluating students’ written responses on a screen while a video of the student (randomly selected) explained the work. In this situation:

  • Teachers were not biased when grading, in contrast to other studies where only a student’s name was available and teachers ended up grading with a bias.
  • Evaluation of mathematical ability was also not very biased by gender or race.
  • Recommendations for the gifted programs often went to males, but not necessarily more white than Black males.
  • Recommendations for testing for disability skewed heavily towards Black students in schools that were racially diverse, but less in predominantly White schools.

It’s clear that biases and stereotypes are being perpetuated in virtual classrooms, but the study taken with others indicates that we may be able to mitigate inequality by prompting students to provide more information, such as explaining their work. This gives teachers the opportunity to attend to the student’s specific learning needs and avoid relying on stereotypes to fill in the gaps.

And closing gaps is a global goal. In 2015, only 5% of girls said they planned on STEM careers in comparison to 20% of boys in OECD countries. One study concerned with the gender divide examined how masculine classroom design (Star Trek posters, etc.) reduced female enrollment. But even in perfect classrooms, tired instructors will fall upon stereotypes that require less thinking without intending to. For the U.S., this is particularly challenging with the teacher shortage (and low wages and burnout).


India Is Pushing Unproven, Possibly Dangerous Medicine 

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🎬 Action of the Week

Care to do a little bias digging? Take an implicit bias test and learn more about implicit biases with Project Implicit, a nonprofit, international collaborative of scientists and researchers interested in implicit social cognition.


  • The Conversation: Math Teachers' Bias in Virtual Classrooms 2 days old | 2 minutes long
  • Gender Action Portal: Math Teachers’ Implicit Bias Widens Gap 3 years old | 1 minutes long
  • Science Direct: Teacher Bias in Virtual Classrooms 5 months old | 40 minutes long
  • Edweek: Teachers as Biased as Everyone Else 2 years old | 6 minutes long
  • Bloomberg: Great Teacher Resignation 2 months old | 3 minutes long


    / `\

   psylocybe (liberty-cap)
   hallucinogenic mushroom

Chill pills are so last decade.

Art Credit: CJRandall,

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