Review article suggests girls equal boys in math skills

By Tom Nordlie • Published: January 19th, 2011
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

You know those cheesy horror movies where the bad guy survives endless gunshots and other mayhem, and keeps on coming?

Stereotypes can be like that.

No matter how much logic is thrown at them, they manage to survive.

And, unlike horror-movie villains, stereotypes can hurt people in real life.

Here’s a good example… the notion that boys are better than girls at mathematics.

This piece of folk wisdom has circulated in the U-S for generations.

And it can discourage young women from pursuing careers in science and engineering, where higher math is used daily.

A review article published in the journal Psychological Bulletin may not end the stereotype, but it does inflict some well-deserved damage.

The review looked at almost two-hundred-fifty recent studies from around the world, involving more than a million participants.

Almost without exception, the results showed that both genders performed equally well at math, from preschool all the way through college and into adulthood.

Yes, there were a few differences.

According to some data, boys performed better on multiple-choice tests and measurement questions. Girls performed better on short-answer tests and algebra questions.

There was only one area where it appeared that males clearly had the upper hand.

That’s complex problem-solving, where students use evidence, reasoning and planning.

The authors suggest this subject isn’t being taught enough, at least in the U-S.

One reason is that many math programs are geared toward preparing students for standardized tests that involve simpler math.

So maybe the way to get rid of the gender-stereotype boogeyman once and for all is by providing better education.

That’s a tactic they never seem to try in horror movies.