Surprise – Girls are good at math

Good News – Girls really are good in math. A new study refutes the talking Barbie claim that “Math class is hard.” Y showing that there is no gap between girls and boys when it comes to math. In a study funded by the National Science Foundation, It found that while 20 years ago boys scored better on math tests, that is no longer the case – they now perform equally.

The NY Times article “Math Scores show no Gap for Girls” goes on quote the co-author of the study ,Marcia C. Linn of the University of California, Berkeley,. “But people are surprised by these findings, which suggests to me that the stereotypes are still there.”

Girls are still underrepresented in high school physics classes (which require a decent level of math knowledge), as well as the professions, such as engineering that require math. Another author of the study, Janet Hyde, a professor at the University of Wisconsin, said: “The stereotype that boys do better at math is still held widely by teachers and parents.… I still hear anecdotes about guidance counselors steering girls away from engineering, telling them they won’t be able to do the math.”

So what does this mean – don’t assume that just because she’s girl, she can’t do math. And if she doesn’t like math or isn’t doing well, take a look at her classes and her teachers. Is there something going on in the classroom (like a biased teacher) discouraging her from doing well at math. Perhaps this might be an area to get a few enrichment classes – with someone or somewhere that is committed to girls and math, or do start doing some fun math drills at home. Even if she never wants to go onto a calculus, a solid foundation of math will serve her well in any analytic classes, better prepare her for financial freedom (no mortgage broker will snow her. Also, strengthening a math weakness to at least competency will give her more self-confidence in school in general – as well as help maintain her overall GPA.

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One Reply to “Surprise – Girls are good at math”

  1. The results of the study can be interpreted as consistent with what Larry Summer said: That girls and boys have the same average achievement, but boys have higher variance, leading to an over-abundance of males at the higher (and lower) ends of the achievement spectrum.

    It seems that only the wall street journal reported on the “boys higher variance” part of the study with this headline: “Boys’ Math Scores Hit Highs and Lows”

    Here is Andrew Gelman of Columbia talking about the variance part of the study as well, and the contrasting parts that were emphasized by the WSJ vs the NYT (and virtually all other newspapers).

    Also, here is Alex Tabarrok of marginalrevolution talking about how the study vindicates summers:
    Summers Vindicated (Again)

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