Sunday, 27 July 2008

"No Gender Differences In Math Performance"

Think boys are naturally better at maths than girls? Think again.
So how deep-rooted our gender stereotypes are within the education system? Are us parents as guilty as teachers of perpetuating them?

for the full article)

No Gender Differences In Math Performance
Science Daily (July 27, 2008)

'— We've all heard it. Many of us in fact believe it. Girls just aren't as good at math as boys.

But is it true? After sifting through mountains of data - including SAT results and math scores from 7 million students who were tested in accordance with the No Child Left Behind Act - a team of scientists says the answer is no. Whether they looked at average performance, the scores of the most gifted children or students' ability to solve complex math problems, girls measured up to boys.
"There just aren't gender differences anymore in math performance," says University of Wisconsin-Madison psychology professor Janet Hyde, the study's leader. "So parents and teachers need to revise their thoughts about this."
The UW-Madison and University of California, Berkeley, researchers report their findings in the July 25 issue of Science.
Though girls take just as many advanced high school math courses today as boys, and women earn 48 percent of all mathematics bachelor's degrees, the stereotype persists that girls struggle with math, says Hyde. Not only do many parents and teachers believe this, but scholars also use it to explain the dearth of female mathematicians, engineers and physicists at the highest levels.
Cultural beliefs like this are "incredibly influential," she says, making it critical to question them. "Because if your mom or your teacher thinks you can't do math, that can have a big impact on your math self concept." '
and, what I believe is the same story, as described in rather more detail in The Guardian:
Boys not better than girls at maths, study finds
Education Guardian
Friday May 30 2008

'Boys are not innately better at maths than girls, and any difference in test scores is due to nurture rather than nature, researchers suggested today.
According to new research published in the journal Science, the "gender gap" in maths, long perceived to exist between girls and boys, disappears in societies that treat both sexes equally. When girls have equal access to education and other opportunities they do just as well as boys in maths tests.
The research, led by Prof Paola Sapienza of Northwestern University in the US, investigated whether a global gender gap exists and whether it was the result of social engineering rather than intrinsic aptitude for the subject.
"The so-called gender gap in math skills seems to be at least partially correlated to environmental factors," Sapienza said. "The gap doesn't exist in countries in which men and women have access to similar resources and opportunities."
Researchers analysed data from more than 276,000 children in 40 countries who took the 2003 Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) - the internationally standardised test of maths, reading, science and problem-solving ability.
Globally, boys tend to outperform girls in maths (on average girls score 10.5 points lower than boys) but in more "gender equal societies" such as Iceland, Sweden and Norway, girls scored as well as boys or better.
For example, the maths gender gap almost disappeared in Sweden, while in Turkey girls scored 23 points below boys in maths.
Average girls' scores improved as equality improved and the number of girls reaching the highest levels of performance also increased, the researchers found. In Britain, girls fared only slightly less well than male classmates, with female pupils scoring an average of 0.7% less.
The research also found a striking gender gap in reading skills. In every country girls perform better than boys in reading but in countries that treat both sexes equally, girls do even better.
On average, girls have reading scores that are 32.7 points higher than those of boys (6.6% higher than the mean average score for boys). In Turkey, this amounts to 25.1 points higher, and in Iceland, girls score 61.0 points higher.
Sapienza said: "Our research indicates that in more gender equal societies, girls will gain an absolute advantage relative to boys."
I have loads of photos of this past weekend camping at the sailing club to upload, but it's late now. I'll hopefully get a chance to write about it all tomorrow. In the meantime, lots of unpacking to do and a few grubby children to get to sleep.
p.s. apologies for the formatting on this entry; I know the paragraphs seem to be squished up. Blogspot has decided for some reason to take out the spaces and lines that I put in...can't get my head around it, so will have to leave it for now.

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