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Math Education

No Gap Found In Math Abilities of Girls, Boys 701

Posted by kdawson
from the anything-you-can-compute dept.
sciencehabit writes "For anyone who still believes that boys are better at math than girls, a massive new study published today in Science shows there's no difference. 'Among students with the highest test scores, the team did find that white boys outnumbered white girls by about two to one. Among Asians, however, that result was nearly reversed. Hyde says that suggests that cultural and social factors, not gender alone, influence how well students perform on tests.' But the researchers do note a disturbing trend towards omitting harder kinds of math questions from standardized tests."
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No Gap Found In Math Abilities of Girls, Boys

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  • by gcnaddict (841664) on Friday July 25, 2008 @01:07PM (#24337501)
    I want more women in my IT department! Too bad nothing will come from this...

    (even if anything does come from this, it'll probably take a decade or two, which makes me feel old already)
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by gardenwall2 (1209418)
      Three out of eight in the department I work in are women. But only one of us started in IT. My background is music business administration and ending up in computers because a computer was donated to the not-for-profit I worked for in the early 1980's, and I couldn't stand to see it just sitting there not being used. However, I have noticed over years that it's a field dominated by men. Is it just me, or are men more curious than women about IT and other related areas in general?
      • Re:Can it be time? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by digitrev (989335) <digitrev@hotmail.com> on Friday July 25, 2008 @01:35PM (#24338029) Homepage
        Men do tend to be more interested in technical things. In fact, the cog. sci. department has a related hypothesis that they're currently testing. The hypothesis is that Asperger's syndrome and the autistic spectrum is just the extreme case of the male brain (literally: testosterone poisoning).
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by KillerBob (217953)

          Men do tend to be more interested in technical things. In fact, the cog. sci. department has a related hypothesis that they're currently testing. The hypothesis is that Asperger's syndrome and the autistic spectrum is just the extreme case of the male brain (literally: testosterone poisoning).

          I know somebody who's transgendered (MtF) and has been diagnosed with Asperger's... though to be fair, her current psychologist thinks that it was a misdiagnosis, and that the reason she was socially retarded was becau

        • Re:Can it be time? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by infinite9 (319274) on Friday July 25, 2008 @02:19PM (#24338863)

          The hypothesis is that Asperger's syndrome and the autistic spectrum is just the extreme case of the male brain (literally: testosterone poisoning).

          I have asperger's and so do three of my children. My daughter (with asd) is entering the 9th grade this year effectively three years ahead of where I was in math. It's frightening. She skipped the 3rd grade and looks younger than she is. She looks like a 12 year old entering high school. I've been preparing her for a couple years for the time (about now) when I won't be able to help her with math anymore. It's really shocking to me how smart she is.

          I think the human race, at least in the developed world, is selecting for intelligence. Intelligent people have better health care and better resources making them more likely to reproduce and afford more children. I think this natural selection mixed with how our environment has changed is responsible for the increased incidence in asd.

          We need to think long and hard about how we educate children and what we consider normal. The one-size-fits-all public education system is the worst possible thing you can do to an asd kid.

          • Re:Can it be time? (Score:5, Interesting)

            by 2names (531755) on Friday July 25, 2008 @02:45PM (#24339299)
            "I think the human race, at least in the developed world, is selecting for intelligence."

            You, sir, are outcho goddammed mind.

            The intelligent people in developed countries are being outbred [wikipedia.org] by the people of lower intelligence [wikipedia.org].

            I know it is not science, but sheesh, haven't you seen Idiocracy [imdb.com]?
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by RockoTDF (1042780)
              There is a difference between selection and breeding. Selection involves choosing a mate, breeding involves having kids. Smart people are selecting each other, but breeding less. Less intelligent people are having a lot of kids. Also, I would imagine that as more and more women become career women (and not just "have a job") that trophy wives and marrying your cute college sweetheart will be less common, further skewing the bell curve as intelligent women will have an easier time meeting intelligent men
            • OK, sure, it seems quite reasonable that people of lower intelligence have more kids.

              But it's probably been that way for a very long time. I'd imagine that some illiterate peasant bog-farmer had more kids than, say, Sir Isaac Newton, for example. (don't know if that's actually true, but you see where I'm going, right?)

              What keeps us from already being in the grips of an Idiocracy type situation is that there's minimal link between your IQ and that of your parents. Yes, there is a link, but there's a lot of e

  • What! (Score:5, Funny)

    by rob1980 (941751) on Friday July 25, 2008 @01:07PM (#24337503)
    Next they'd have you believe that girls fart and use the internet too... I'm not buying it!
  • Nonsense (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 25, 2008 @01:09PM (#24337531)

    I'm a boy, and I've met girls who I'm better at math than.

    Therefore boys are better at math than girls.

    Heh, stupid girls probably can't even follow simple basic logic like that ;-)

  • What? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by HappySmileMan (1088123) on Friday July 25, 2008 @01:09PM (#24337533)

    Among students with the highest test scores, the team did find that white boys outnumbered white girls by about two to one.

    Ok then, so in most of the western world, boys are better than girls at maths...

    • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SpeedyDX (1014595) <[speedyphoenix] [at] [gmail.com]> on Friday July 25, 2008 @01:15PM (#24337657)

      Right, but what they're trying to emphasize is that gender is not the discriminating factor. Rather, culture is. So your statement is kind of misleading in that it emphasizes gender as the discriminating factor, and subjugates "western world" into a circumstantial factor.

      • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by HappySmileMan (1088123) on Friday July 25, 2008 @01:21PM (#24337751)
        The article is much more misleading than my statement though, it claims girls are equal to boys at maths, then says boys are better (at least white boys and the average SAT taking boy).

        The title shouldn't be "Girls = Boys at Math", it should be "Boys better than Girls at maths, but for cultural reasons, not gender related reasons."
        I imagine that this title would never be chosen because it's either not politically correct enough, or not attention grabbing, regardless of it's accuracy
      • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by dedazo (737510) on Friday July 25, 2008 @01:42PM (#24338143) Journal

        My sister (we're twins) consistently kicked my ass at math and just about everything else, right up until we got to 10th grade or thereabouts. Then she turned into a vacuous fashion fiend with god-awful grades who liked hanging out with other vacuous fashion fiends.

        I think peer pressure has a lot to do with how kids perform at things like math. Math is not cool, therefore if you want to be cool then you have to suck at math, or generally just suck at school.

        I always got good grades, but I was also good at sports and generally avoided the "jock" scene and the do-nothing i'm-so-cool rich kid crowds. I'm kind of proud at having been able to achieve that balance.

        Thankfully she grew out of it eventually, but not in time to do rather badly in high school. It's just as well she didn't need a scholarship to pay her way through college (where she did pretty good).

    • Re:What? (Score:5, Funny)

      by AP31R0N (723649) on Friday July 25, 2008 @01:42PM (#24338153)

      Americans are better at counting than Brits, as Brits seem to think there is more than one math.

  • by tb()ne (625102) on Friday July 25, 2008 @01:10PM (#24337535)
    Was the study conducted by a male or a female?
  • Real Story is (Score:4, Insightful)

    by daveatneowindotnet (1309197) on Friday July 25, 2008 @01:10PM (#24337543)
    Boys test scores have been degrading for years as classrooms are intentionally made more "girl-friendly". Parity thru hamstringing if you ask me.
    • Re:Real Story is (Score:4, Interesting)

      by spun (1352) <loverevolutionary@nOSpam.yahoo.com> on Friday July 25, 2008 @01:25PM (#24337825) Journal

      How does correcting an unfair imbalance equal hamstringing? More attention was paid to boys, and they did better. Now that teachers are giving more time to girls and teaching in a more gender neutral fashion, the scores are becoming more equal. If I give you something that I don't give to others, and then I take some of that away from you in order to more fairly distribute it, I am not hamstringing you.

      Its sad, so many people have gotten used to having unfair advantage, they consider it their birthright. White males tend to be the worst whiners.

      • Re:Real Story is (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Dave114 (168228) on Friday July 25, 2008 @01:44PM (#24338193)

        How does correcting an unfair imbalance equal hamstringing? More attention was paid to boys, and they did better. Now that teachers are giving more time to girls and teaching in a more gender neutral fashion, the scores are becoming more equal.

        As mentioned on 60 minutes [cbsnews.com], "Girls outperform boys in elementary school, middle school, high school, and college, and graduate school".

        Does that sound very equal to you?

        It goes somewhat against the grain of this report, but what this study seems to indicate is that, relative to their performance in other subject areas, girls aren't doing well in math.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by adri (173121)

        Of course, there's not enough information in TFA nor in the research.

        If you give more of math to boys, and they develop better at it, do you know if you've challenged them and developed them to their maximum? If you take some away and redistribute it to the girls (or across racism/cultural/religious/socioeconomic/etc) then are you still challenging -any- of them to their maximum?

        I'm white, and I'm whining because I don't want to see more dumb people.

      • Re:Real Story is (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 25, 2008 @01:50PM (#24338317)

        When I was in public school in the 80s and 90s none of my math teachers were men. Typically, a quarter to a half of our grade would be 'homework checks' or art posters where you draw a picture of issac newton and an apple. I was never in a class that you could even pass by just being able to understand and perform math.

        So in my day girls had huge advantages in math classrooms, with sypathetic teachers and rote learning and grades based on following the rules -- and guys still did better in math. I can only image how hostile the classrooms are now. Judging by your id, back in your day maybe there was a bias for men but that has long since been overcorrected for.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        There is evidence that boys and girls learn better in different sorts of environments. Early one one claim was made that girls were too intimidated to participate in class because boys were loud and rambunctious, tending to interrupt, shouting out questions or answers. The "solution" was to force the boys to sit down and shut up so that the girls wouldn't be intimidated and therefore could learn better. the problem is that it now appears that this has been actively detrimental to boys' education because it

        • Re:Real Story is (Score:5, Insightful)

          by flink (18449) on Friday July 25, 2008 @02:38PM (#24339185)

          How about not formulating the teaching style based on what's between someone's legs and instead teaching to the individual. Splitting up kids and teaching boys and girls differently is just going reinforce the same cultural stereotypes that created the disparity in the first place. Aggressive girls and passive boys who don't live up to western heteronormative ideals are going to feel even more singled out.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by spun (1352)

            Good point, I was going to mention that. It's actually more complex, people have four different primary learning styles, and most schools only teach to one or two. It isn't just gender.

            People can learn through hearing something, reading something, watching something, or doing something. Most schools only teach through lecture and books, with a relatively few demonstrations and lab activities for the other learning styles.

    • Re:Real Story is (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) on Friday July 25, 2008 @01:29PM (#24337893) Journal
      Back in my day, Our math teacher would call on girls ask them a really tough question then after the wrong answer was given: " of course you don't know you're just a silly girl!" So if being "girl friendly" is not doing that, its an improvement. I think he was trying to be funny in an ironic sense, but really it was just too close to being blatant sexism for the irony to work.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        My technical drawing teacher did that, but it was always taken for what it was, a joke, no-one got butthurt about the sexism of an old mans joke and the girls in the class went on to get good results, and they acknowledge that the teacher helped them with a lot of it.
        I'm sure if they spent all their time getting offended they wouldn't have done nearly as well.
  • by LeafOnTheWind (1066228) on Friday July 25, 2008 @01:10PM (#24337557)

    Wait so:

    result 1: While previously it had been believed that boys solved harder mathematics questions more adeptly, that trend has been reversed.

    result 2: Our standardized test material contained no hard mathematics questions.

    Does anyone see anything wrong with this? Their results may be true, but that doesn't mean the study was valid.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by grassy_knoll (412409)

      Does seem like the study was designed to reach a predetermined conclusion, doesn't it?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by snl2587 (1177409)

      At least they half acknowledged that by lowering the overall standard the results were no longer valid, even if it was mentioned only in passing and not the focus of the article. Now, if it wasn't for the misleading headline and all that text...

      I don't doubt that girls can be equally good at math as boys, but I've noticed that the interest is often just not there. And that's the real reason why men outnumber women in the math-intensive fields of science. Not because we're better at it, but because we're act

    • Yes, Real Results (Score:4, Insightful)

      by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Friday July 25, 2008 @02:04PM (#24338541) Homepage Journal

      I think this study conclusively shows that:

      • Given the current educational system/methods
      • For the material tested by NCLB tests
      • For a human who makes it/is interested in higher math

      there's no difference in outcomes based on gender.

      Any other questions go unaddressed.

      Personally, I'm interested in seeing further research based on the theories that there exist better teaching methods for both boys and girls, exploiting the respective differences in brain organization (I know, that kind of heresy gets you Larry Summers'ed.) We've trended towards LCD on those, from what I've heard folks in the field say. One researcher I heard recently was talking about how mental agility exercises used by the elderly can be adapted and customized to benefit younger individuals, even in specific subjects. Whether boys or girls would perform better on math, on average, with an optimized curriculum, I believe is an open question. And so what if a boy does better? There are a heck of a lot of things girls are better at, IMHO, and math isn't necessarily the pantheon of human knowledge. And, so what if a girl does better? Why do we care, again?

    • by BinBoy (164798) on Friday July 25, 2008 @02:04PM (#24338553) Homepage

      result 2: Our standardized test material contained no hard mathematics questions.

      In a room with a low ceiling, a high percentage will jump the same height.

    • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Friday July 25, 2008 @05:05PM (#24341487) Homepage Journal

      Does anyone see anything wrong with this? Their results may be true, but that doesn't mean the study was valid.

      But the study had a politically correct result! It must be valid! Blasphemer.

  • Explanation (Score:5, Funny)

    by sjonke (457707) on Friday July 25, 2008 @01:12PM (#24337589) Journal

    The math in this study was done by girls.

  • by peipas (809350) on Friday July 25, 2008 @01:14PM (#24337623)

    I was just commenting about this with a coworker this morning, and how the Minneapolis Star Tribune indicates Minnesota high school girls are still lagging behind boys. I said we just need to bump down the high school boys' performance a couple notches and we'll be good: no child left behind!

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by kabocox (199019)

      I said we just need to bump down the high school boys' performance a couple notches and we'll be good: no child left behind!

      Shouldn't it be "No child out ahead?"

  • by faloi (738831) on Friday July 25, 2008 @01:18PM (#24337693)
    You know what that means...A WITCH! - Family Guy

    I've been sort of disheartened by the quality of math instruction in the US lately, and it's got nothing to do with gender. It certainly seems like newer students lack a lot of the critical math skills that were drilled into my head years ago, based on my limited exposure to new people entering the job market/taking the occasional class here and there.
  • obviously (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AxemRed (755470) on Friday July 25, 2008 @01:19PM (#24337721)
    Did anyone really expect there to be a gap in ability? I hope not... I always figured the gap was in interest, and the real debate is whether or not that gap in interest is inherent in some way or is just the result of our culture and the way people are raised and socialized.
  • white boys should breed with asian girls, creating an uberrace of math chomping supergenius kids

    i for one welcome our eurasian einsteinchan overlords

  • by MikeRT (947531) on Friday July 25, 2008 @01:20PM (#24337731) Homepage

    Other girls.

    Seriously. Anyone who has dated a geek girl knows that misogyny is a drop in the bucket compared to the problem that girls geared toward science and math face from other girls who will be absolutely VICIOUS in putting them down.

    The reason this never gets debated is simple. It would blow apart the entire "sisterhood" myth of feminism. To admit that there are a number of women who use "girliness" as a cudgel to beat the tar out of intelligent women, while there are a number of men who actually want an intelligent, educated mate, would be to force them to admit that women, not "the patriarchy," are really what's keeping the culture stagnant.

    • Anyone who has dated a geek girl knows that misogyny is a drop in the bucket compared to the problem that girls geared toward science and math face from other girls who will be absolutely VICIOUS in putting them down.

      All that proves is that girls have tribal behavior just like boys, and will ostracize anyone who is different. That says nothing about the *average* intrinsic abilities of men and women.

      Personally, I don't understand why there is even any debate that men and women are different. Somehow we're supposed to believe that men and women are physically different in nearly every way -- except for the brain. Evolution clearly decided to make the brains identical for political reasons.

      People need to lighten up. We're talking about averages. Women can have traditionally male traits, and men can have traditionally female traits.

      On the other hand, consider this, just to introduce some controversy (:D) -- there is no case where the world's best female athlete can beat the world's best male athlete at any physical sport. Could this truth also apply to certain narrow cases of neurology? [either male or female].

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Theaetetus (590071)

        Somehow we're supposed to believe that men and women are physically different in nearly every way -- except for the brain.

        If you believe men and women are physically different in nearly every way, you've missed out on a lot of biology, anatomy, and genetics.

        On the other hand, consider this, just to introduce some controversy (:D) -- there is no case where the world's best female athlete can beat the world's best male athlete at any physical sport. Could this truth also apply to certain narrow cases of neurology? [either male or female].

        Absolutely, since it's not a "truth" at all. Aside from all the physical sports that women can compete equally in - fencing, for instance - when you standardize by scale, disparities frequently disappear.
        For example: Florence Griffith-Joyner is 5'6-1/2" and holds the women's world record for 100m at 10.49s. She ran 5.64 times her height every second. Leroy Burrell, the men

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510)

        Personally, I don't understand why there is even any debate that men and women are different. Somehow we're supposed to believe that men and women are physically different in nearly every way -- except for the brain. Evolution clearly decided to make the brains identical for political reasons.

        How exactly do you arrive at "physically different in nearly every way?" Smaller with an outside-in penis and very minor differences in hormone balances really isn't even close to every way. Seems like a very distinct, very small minority of ways to me. We are all made of the same stuff, we all have the same body temperature, we all have the same shape, our muscles all work on the same principles of physics, we eat the same foods, inter-sex blood transfusions and even organ transplants are common enough,

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      "The patriarchy" doesn't mean guys all got together and decided to keep women down. It's a societal construct which self-perpetuates gender-based division of roles; including "male==leader" and "female==likes shoes".

      That women--under the burden of this construct--also assist in perpetuating these divisions, is an argument IN SUPPORT of its existence and its ongoing effects; NOT of it being "made up" to "sell" "feminism".

      Just how foot binding, arranged mariages, and bride-burning are all strongly enforced

    • I ahve an 8 year old daughter, and I see this behaviour in girls a little older then here.
      I ahve been talking to a lot of my female coworkrs about girl behaviour.

      So far I ahve this conclusion:
      Girls are fucking mean.
      They'll intentionally talk smack about some when they know they are listening but not part of the conversation.
      what the hell is that about?

      Girls will build someone up just to bring them down. Seriously, WTF?

      As a guy we said what was on our mind and sometimes tossed some fists around. The it was done.
      None of this planning to revenge some slight for days.

    • Seriously. Anyone who has dated a geek girl knows that misogyny is a drop in the bucket compared to the problem that girls geared toward science and math face from other girls who will be absolutely VICIOUS in putting them down.

      Unless you're only talking about high school (where most kids are vicious, whether you're geeky or fat or wierd or anything else they don't like) other girls are NOT the biggest problem for geek girls. In college, I took mostly geeky classes, so I was either the only girl or the other girls were just as geeky as me, so I didn't see non-geeky girls who would put me down to often. Once I got out of school, it became even easier to avoid girls who would judge me for being geeky. But you know who I can't avoid? Geek guys. So, even if more girls are cruel than geek guys are sexist, the geek guys affect me much more than anti-geek girls ever could. Everytime I try to explain something technical to a guy and he decides I must not know what I'm talking about, it hurts me and can (and probably has) hurt my career. When a more experienced tech at my current job started to take me under his wing and mentor me, and then completely stopped talking to me after I stopped wearing makeup (yes, I'm serious), that sexism hurts me more than all the comments girls made behind my back in high school. Now I get to wonder if it's worth stooping to the pettiness and wearing makeup again so I can get back in the good graces of someone who could probably help me a lot here, or if it would be wrong to try to move up solely on the base of my appearance, and I get to wonder if all the other guys here are just as sexist but less blatant about it. That's far from the only example of sexism I've experienced, it's just the most recent. Hands down, sexist guys are much more of a problem for geeky girls than anti-geeky girls are.

  • No surprise (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gweihir (88907) on Friday July 25, 2008 @01:21PM (#24337757)

    Girls have more fear of math. They are not worse at it. The typical observation is that girls do not dare try it, while boys perform badly and do not mind. This is a cultural problem, not a capability issue. Same is, incidentially, true ofr technology: Girls are afraid to touch it, while boys break it.

  • by blueZ3 (744446) on Friday July 25, 2008 @01:21PM (#24337759) Homepage

    Girls just as good as boys at today's easier math?

    Frankly, I've never bought that old CW about girls being worse at math than boys... especially since I met and married my math-major wife in college, who has always been much better at math than I am. It may be true that boys are more _interested_ in math than girls, and thus pursue it and are successful at it more often, but that's a completely different thing from saying that girls are somehow innately "worse" at math.

  • by biased_estimator (1222498) on Friday July 25, 2008 @01:30PM (#24337913)
  • by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Friday July 25, 2008 @01:32PM (#24337959)
    "Math is hard! Let's go shopping!"
  • by gmuslera (3436) on Friday July 25, 2008 @01:35PM (#24338015) Homepage Journal
    They focused in skin color... hair color would had lead to a more eath-shaking conclusion.
  • Agreed. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by apodyopsis (1048476) on Friday July 25, 2008 @01:38PM (#24338071)
    Agreed. No difference at all.

    The difference is in motivation - they simply are not interested.

    After all, I am sure that all of us could spend hours doing many of the things and jobs that women find so fascinating (fashion, cooking, PA, advertising, sales etc) perfectly competantly - but its true that we simply do not want to.
  • by j. andrew rogers (774820) on Friday July 25, 2008 @01:38PM (#24338083)

    Judging high-end mathematics aptitude by looking at low-end mathematics test scores is no way to run a study. Anyone can learn mathematics well enough to get a decent score on the SAT; it would be like using rudimentary literacy as the measure of Pulitzer prize potential. What next, flipping burgers at McDonald's will make you the next Iron Chef? No one seriously doubted that males and females learn mathematics with similar aptitude in any case, so this seems to be a combination strawman and low-rent dig at Larry Summers that misses the point more than anything.

    The controversy, which is not very controversial, has to do with differences in genders to directly manipulate certain kinds of complex system models mentally. While it tends to manifest in some areas of applied mathematics, it does not reflect any ability to learn mathematics per se.

  • by spicydragonz (837027) on Friday July 25, 2008 @01:55PM (#24338413)
    There are more male winners of the field's medal. This article makes a pretty convincing case that the reason is because males have a wider sigma and that there will be more male super geniuses than women. http://www.lagriffedulion.f2s.com/math.htm [f2s.com]
  • All BS (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Trojan35 (910785) on Friday July 25, 2008 @02:26PM (#24338965)

    We think that since we discovered what DNA is and have a caveman's understanding of how genes work, we can be an omniscient god and figure out each individuals pre-determined fate. I think that, especially in the science crowd, the Nature aspect is way overblown compared to the Nurture part of it.

    You're certainly not gonna convince me it's nature by some craptastic standardized math test.

  • by Whuffo (1043790) on Friday July 25, 2008 @02:26PM (#24338979) Homepage Journal
    In our modern "pay for performance" world, the metric used to determine the performance of teachers are the grades their students achieve on standardized tests.

    Add some financial incentive via state and federal funding and it's now become important to not only the teachers but the schools to turn out students that excel on those standardized tests.

    Being creative people, the school administrators found that the best and easiest way to obtain those high scores on the tests was to make the tests easier. The companies providing the tests were happy to comply with the wishes of their best (and only) customers.

    Combine this with high school classes where half or more of the final grade is based on attendance (!) and what kind of education do you think our children are really getting?

  • Until puberty (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Thaelon (250687) on Friday July 25, 2008 @02:38PM (#24339195)

    Back when I was in 5th grade, there were 2-3 girls in my computer class that were much better programmers than I. Much better.

    Fast forward to today. They're housewives. I'm a Software Engineer. It's sad and disheartening. I wish there were more women in my field.

    It's like puberty fried their brains completely. If it weren't for that I could easily envision them being much better at what I do than I am. But something happened in the intervening years. The only thing that makes any sense is puberty. Until that point the differences between boys and girls are superficial, but prior to that they were much better at it than I was.

    I'd like to see the results of this experiment re-run on the same people when they're in their late 20s or early thirties.

  • What I've seen (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jmichaelg (148257) on Friday July 25, 2008 @02:47PM (#24339329) Journal

    From what I've seen reported on the study, the authors were looking at averages being the same. That's what I've seen over the years as well. What I've also seen is the standard deviation for boys is greater. Boys are usually at the bottom, the middle and the top with the girls usually clustered in the center. Admittedly, my sample sizes are small and I'm looking at a self-selected group.

    I've coached a Middle school math program called Mathcounts [mathcounts.org] for the past 12 years. I coach in a Mathcounts region just south of the Silicon Valley. The program is organized around annual competitions that are structured as a hierarchy: school/region/state/national. Winning at one step gains a student, or group of students, access to the next level of competition. We've managed to do well at the regional competition and have sent at least one kid to the state level 10 out of 12 years.

    At the regional level, gender has never been an issue - we send as many girls as boys to state. At the state level, gender is most definitely an issue as the top 16 kids out of the 150 or so regional winners are overwhelmingly boys. You'll usually see a 2 to 1 ratio [mathcounts-ca.org] and sometimes the boy's will sweep the top 16. In the sample I cited, I counted 6 girls out the top 38 contestants. Remember, I'm talking about the top 1% of middle school children in California. Most of the top kids are Asian which means anybody from India to Japan.

    A key difference I've seen between my Asian and non-Asian students has been their parents. If I have a strong Asian student, strong odds are that the kid's parents are first-generation immigrants. First-generation parents tend to emphasize excellence far more than parents who have been here awhile.

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