Vocational interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields in middle school can predict life outcomes, including enrollment in STEM courses and pursuing STEM careers. Numerical performance, as well as emotional factors such as math anxiety (MA), may influence vocational interests. The constructs of both vocational interests and MA are sensitive to gender differences. Accordingly, this study explored whether the relations among MA, numerical performance, and math vocational interests among middle-school students vary by gender. A sample of 127 ninth-grade students (68 females) performed a computation task and completed MA and trait anxiety (TA) questionnaires. A math vocational interest questionnaire was composed and assessed with an additional sample of 89 ninth-grade students. For females, MA, but not TA or numerical performance, predicted math vocational interest. Those with low MA levels tended to be interested in careers with higher math proficiency such as STEM careers. For males, high numerical performance and low TA, but not MA, related to interest in careers with high math proficiency. Bayes factors indicated that the data strongly supported the theory. The findings support the assumption that high MA levels affect the career plans of female students, whereas low numerical performance can account for both MA levels and future career plans of male students. It is essential to investigate how career aspirations are shaped in young students to promote the choice of STEM careers, especially among underrepresented populations such as females.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Inc.
- Gender differences
- Math anxiety
- Numerical performance
- Trait anxiety
- Vocational interests
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Developmental and Educational Psychology