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Girls AREN'T Worse in Math?!?


Q. Is it an old wive's tale, or are girls honestly not as good as boys in math? And what are schools doing to try to equalize things between the genders in this important subject?


The president of Harvard University, Lawrence H. Summers, once got into trouble for questioning women's "intrinsic aptitude" for science and engineering. The famous "talking Barbie" doll once proclaimed that "math class is tough." But a study paid for by the National Science Foundation has found that girls do as well as boys on standardized math tests, and the gender gap that used to exist in advanced math courses has now largely closed.

Study authors included Janet Hyde of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Marcia C. Linn of the University of California, Berkeley. Results were published in the July 25, 2008, issue of Science magazine. The researchers analyzed math test scores from 7 million students in 10 states. They included average test scores, the performance of the most gifted students, and the ability to solve complex math problems.


Researchers said it is important for parents and teachers to know the truth - that girls are NOT deficient in math ability - to help them give better guidance to girls. That goes for choosing high school courses, which often set the stage for what majors girls can pursue in college. If a teenage girl believes herself to be bad at math, or to have "math anxiety," often she will quit taking math after satisfying the bare minimum requirements in high school. That means she will not have enough math to take upper-level science classes such as chemistry and physics. Without those courses, she will be blocked from many careers in health and medicine, or good careers in engineering and technology, for example.


The study noted that the score averages on the college admissions test, the SAT, are lower for girls than for boys. But that is because nearly 100,000 more girls take the SAT than boys do. That, in turn, is because more girls than boys go to college. But many of those girls are relatively low achievers, and so their test scores bring the average math scores down for girls overall.


On the ACT, another college entrance test, the gender gap in math scores disappeared in Colorado and Illinois after the states began requiring all students to take the test, researchers said.



Homework: If you want the full study, go to and search the article title, "Gender Similarities Characterize Math Performance" from July 2008.


By Susan Darst Williams Special Learners 08 2008


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