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Girls Can Do Math Too June 10, 2009

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Culture, Dwight Furrow's Posts, Philosophy of Gender, Science.

The hypothesis that boys are better than girls at math has been bandied about for years and it is often used to explain why girls and women tend to avoid math-heavy fields like engineering and physics.

A new analysis of the research suggests that the hypothesis is just a stereotype unsupported by data.

Psychologist Janet Hyde had previously studied scores on standardized math tests in the United States, and found no difference in performance between girls and boys. Her new study expands the scope of the work by analyzing international data. She and her colleague analyzed studies from around the world on math performance along with gender inequality as measured by the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index. This index measures the gap between men and women in economic opportunity, educational attainment and other socioeconomic factors [LiveScience].

They found that countries with poor gender equality, like India, had a larger gender gap in math, while in countries with excellent gender equality, like the Netherlands, girls performed as well as boys. If males really did have an innate advantage in math, the researchers note, that advantage should be obvious throughout all these cultures. Instead, the study suggests that cultural issues are the basis of the math gender gap.

The United States, by the way, is 31st on World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index behind bastions of freedom and opportunity such as Cuba and Namibia.


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