Paying the Price for "Sugar and Spice": Shifting the Analytical Lens in Equity Research

Boaler, Jo (2002) Paying the Price for "Sugar and Spice": Shifting the Analytical Lens in Equity Research. Mathematical Thinking and Learning, 4 (2-3). pp. 127-144. ISSN 1098-6065

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The analytical stance taken by equity researchers in education, the methodologies employed, and the interpretations that are drawn from data all have an enormous impact on the knowledge that is produced about sources of inequality. In the 1970s and 1980s, a great deal of interest was given to the issue of women's and girls' underachievement in mathematics. This prompted numerous different research projects that investigated the extent and nature of the differences between girls' and boys' achievement and offered reasons why such disparities occurred. This work contributed to a discourse on gender and mathematics that flowed through the media channels and into schools, homes, and the workplace. In this article, I consider some of the scholarship on gender and mathematics, critically examining the findings that were produced and the influence they had. In the process, I propose a fundamental tension in research on equity, as scholars walk a fine and precarious line between lack of concern on the one hand and essentialism on the other. I argue in this article that negotiating that tension may be the most critical role for equity researchers as we move into the future.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This paper provides a new analytical lens for gender research. It is cited by the influential instructional media centre in the USA as one of the 'great women resources' ( and it is also recommended in a statement of the National Centre for Women and Information Technology ( The paper is used in many universities in the USA, across disciplines, including the archaeology department of Berkeley, California, and is being used as the basis for a speech by Lord Ralph Lucas in the House of Lords.
Schools and Departments: School of Education and Social Work > Education
Depositing User: Jo Boaler
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2012 18:27
Last Modified: 28 May 2012 11:22
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