Theses Doctoral

Asian American college students' mathematics success and the model minority stereotype

Jo, Lydia Hyeryung

The often aggregated reports of academic excellence of Asian American students as a whole, compared to students from other ethnic groups offers compelling evidence that Asian Americans are more academically successful than their ethnic counterparts, particularly in the area of mathematics. These comparative data have generated many topics of discussion including the model minority stereotype: a misconception that all Asian Americans are high academic achievers. Research has shown that this seemingly positive stereotype produces negative effects in Asian students. The aim of this study is to examine differences in mathematics success levels and beliefs about the model minority stereotype among different generations of Asian American college students. This study focuses on comparing three different generations of Asian American students with respect to: (1) their success and confidence in mathematics, (2) their personal views on the factors that contribute to their success, (3) their perceptions of the model minority stereotype and (4) how they believe the stereotype affects them. In this mixed methods study, a sample of n = 117 Asian American college students participated in an online survey to collect quantitative data and a subsample of n = 9 students were able to participate in a semi-structured interview. The results of the study indicated that there were almost no differences in either the mathematics success and confidence level, or in the perceptions and perceived effects of the model minority stereotype across generations. Quantitative results showed that all generations of Asian Americans generally are confident in their mathematics abilities. Qualitative analysis showed that the students felt that there were three reasons for their level of success: parental influence, differences in the education system between the U.S. and their home country, and using mathematics and science to get ahead academically as their native English speaking peers tend to be ahead of them in the liberal arts due to language barriers. Though there were mixed feelings among the sample subjects about the validity of the model minority stereotype, all three generations of Asian American students felt peer pressure from the stereotype to excel in mathematics, more frequently in high school than in college.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Mathematics Education
Thesis Advisors
Walker, Erica
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
April 19, 2012