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Math Education Science

New Study Concludes Math Gender Gap Is Cultural, Not Biological 472

New submitter germansausage writes "A new study was published today in Notices of the American Mathematical Society, looking at data from 86 countries, to test the 'greater male variability hypothesis' as the primary reason for the scarcity of outstanding women mathematicians. It concludes that cultural and not biological factors are the chief causes (PDF) of the gap in math skills between men and women."
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New Study Concludes Math Gender Gap Is Cultural, Not Biological

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  • by SJHillman ( 1966756 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @01:28PM (#38357066)

    Wearing skirts is also cultural, not biological

    • by oPless ( 63249 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @01:39PM (#38357220) Journal

      Ask any Scot.

      A Kilt is NOT a skirt.

      The best explanation I've found online is the marked answer here:
      http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20111013145703AAO6AEd [yahoo.com]

      A kilt is a made to measure garment that is specifically designed to fit a man's anatomy, and as such it is usually very unflattering to a woman's figure.

      A kilt has eight yards of material, most of which is taken up in the pleats, there are very few women who would want to carry so much weight in a skirt.

      A kilt fastens on the right hand side, whereas a woman's skirt usually closes on the left.

      Traditionally kilts may only be worn by men and boys, but nowadays many women like to wear tartan skirts, which are sometimes called kilted skirts.

      The only women I know of who wear traditional kilts, are those who play in a pipe band, they also wear the kilt so as to keep the entire band uniform.

      Many Scots especially the traditionalists, will take great offense if you call their kilt a skirt, as they see the kilt as their national dress, as indeed it is, and they are rightly very proud of it.

      • by _0xd0ad ( 1974778 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @01:41PM (#38357272) Journal

        A Kilt is No True Skirt

        FTFY.

      • by SJHillman ( 1966756 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @01:46PM (#38357354)

        Scots can wear their national dress, but I'll stick to my national pants and national shirt

      • by Libertarian001 ( 453712 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @01:53PM (#38357442)

        So, my friend Adam and I are standing in line at the check-out counter. Adam likes to wear kilts. The little girl in front of us points at him and says to her mother, "Look, Mommy! That man is wearing a dress!" The lady responded to her daughter, "No, Sweetie, he's wearing a kilt."

        "Mommy...What's a kilt?"

        "It's a dress for men."

        • by Anne_Nonymous ( 313852 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @03:10PM (#38358726) Homepage Journal

          >> "Mommy...What's a kilt?"

          It's what you'll be if you keep making fun of his dress.

        • by Libertarian001 ( 453712 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @03:11PM (#38358756)

          Yeah, yeah, don't respond to my own...

          So we lived in Reno at the time. Nice, gambling town. Lots of casinos. They all have, I don't know what they're called, hot air vents/grating in front of the doors, blowing upwards. So Adam and I walking into the casino (about an hour after the check-out-encounter), and he's still wearing his kilt, and he decides that *now* is the time to do his Marilyn Monroe impression. He's standing there, with hair longer than that of most women, and a beard, as the vents blow his kilt up.

          Everyone thought it was pretty funny and the security lady decided to get in on the act. She walks up and asks, "Sir, do you know what real men wear under their kilts?" And Adam says, "Nothing, but I'm wearing *this*!" and pulls up his kilt to show off his tie-dye boxers.

      • by Belial6 ( 794905 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @02:04PM (#38357612)
        All you have done is described the kind of skirt that a kilt is.
      • by jandrese ( 485 ) <kensama@vt.edu> on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @02:09PM (#38357694) Homepage Journal
        I don't know. Saying it isn't a skirt because it has 8+ yards of material seems pretty weak to me. Are hoop skirts not skirts?

        Also saying that it's not a skirt because women don't wear them, except when they do...

        From what I can tell they're not "skirts" because the Scots don't want them to be called skirts.
        • Actually, I'm a reasonable approximation of a Scotsman by heritage, although 3rd generation in Canada.

          I have a kilt-like garment. It's not a True Scotsman's Kilt with the 9 yards of wool; it wraps around my waist once, like a skirt. It looks like a kilt, it wears like a kilt, but it was so much cheaper than a real one. It was free!

          My dad ordered one, they sent the wrong size and it was damaged. They told him to keep it, it wasn't worth the shipping to return it. It happened to be my size. I've worn it

          • by xaxa ( 988988 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @08:48PM (#38364346)

            Actually, I'm a reasonable approximation of a Scotsman by heritage, although 3rd generation in Canada.

            Do any North Americans claim to be English? Some Americans are very quick to tell me where their great-great-great grandfather was born, if it was Scotland, Ireland, Norway, Germany, ... but no one has ever told me they're "English by heritage".

            I'm curious, as I am English (though I usually describe myself as British).

            I also find the whole "heritage" thing weird -- are you not Canadian? I assume your Scottish ancestor(s) left Scotland to find a better life.

        • I don't know. Saying it isn't a skirt because it has 8+ yards of material seems pretty weak to me. Are hoop skirts not skirts?

          Also saying that it's not a skirt because women don't wear them, except when they do...

          From what I can tell they're not "skirts" because the Scots don't want them to be called skirts.

          You're right: you don't know. A kilt is still a kilt, even if a woman is wearing it in a pipe-band. If a man puts on a blouse, does it become a shirt?

          The word "kilt" is derived from a Scandinavian verb that means to tuck up or gather. It is not some word that Scots invented to avoid calling it a skirt, as you seem to think.

          Disclosure: I own a kilt. When I have worn it, nobody has ever questioned my manhood. Well, some have tried but none have succeeded.

          • If a man puts on a blouse, does it become a shirt?

            AFAIC, a blouse is a shirt no matter who's wearing it. If it's a fitted garment that covers the upper body only and hangs on the shoulders, that's a "shirt". There's different kinds of shirts: t-shirts, long-sleeve shirts, sleeveless shirts, etc. Blouses are just another kind of shirt, mainly one that's made with rather thin fabric, frequently has frilly decorations, and is usually worn by women in modern times. That doesn't mean it isn't a shirt.

            It's j

        • by khallow ( 566160 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @10:12PM (#38364974)

          From what I can tell they're not "skirts" because the Scots don't want them to be called skirts.

          This is all context dependent. If the Scot is also carrying something pretty dangerous, say a claymore or bagpipes, then the kilt is NOT a skirt. If the Scot is carrying only harmless things such as cell phones or twinkies, then it's a skirt.

      • Just keep telling yourself that.

      • by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @02:21PM (#38357904) Homepage

        Ask any Scot.

        Hello.

        Many Scots [...] will take great offense

        Many short men with a deeply ingrained inferiority complex will take great offence at a lot of things, but the way to deal with that is to pat them on the head and say "Calm down, little fellow, it's a perfectly fetching skirt and very flattering with your figure" not to take their angry rantings seriously. It just encourages them.

      • by Aighearach ( 97333 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @02:37PM (#38358148) Homepage

        While it is true that many Scots take offense when a kilt is called a skirt, it is not due to a belief that a kilt is not actually a skirt. Clearly as a technical matter a kilt is a type of skirt.

        The reason it is offensive is that usually anybody calling a kilt a skirt is not in a technical discussion about types of garment, and is instead intending to be insulting. And if you intend to be insulting to a Scot, he may or may not decide to offer your nose a grand insult.

        And I am somewhat of a traditionalist, I did grow up in a highland dance band.

        Also "traditionally" a kilt was a single piece garment that covered the whole body, and went further down the leg than the modern "short kilt" which was introduced in the 1700s. If you wore a modern kilt 500 years ago, they probably would also have called it a skirt. ;)

    • by Anne_Nonymous ( 313852 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @01:45PM (#38357334) Homepage Journal

      So the sheep won't hear the zipper.

  • by alexander_686 ( 957440 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @01:30PM (#38357094)

    I have seen an interesting counter argument to this.

    It states that females are biologically equal to males in maths abilities, but superior to men in language ability. It this is true, men would tend to crowd into math heavy fields (Since they have a natural advantage there) while females would be more widely spread out.

    Which is not exactly true. In rich worlds 80% of woman pile into 10 of the 120 job categories (Medicine, teaching, public service) while men are more evenly spread out.

    • by spidercoz ( 947220 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @01:32PM (#38357120) Journal

      In rich worlds 80% of woman pile into 10 of the 120 job categories (Medicine, teaching, public service) while men are more evenly spread out.

      Which is also cultural.

      • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @01:50PM (#38357404) Homepage Journal

        In rich worlds 80% of woman pile into 10 of the 120 job categories (Medicine, teaching, public service) while men are more evenly spread out.

        Which is also cultural.

        Traditional roles take a while to break down. About 100 years ago it was scandalous to even consider a woman going through medical school or writing a scientific thesis. Even in the 1950's the prevailing view among Sci-Fi audience was women were incapable of writing Science Fiction, so we had writers like "James Tiptree, Jr." Women were directed towards nurturing roles, so they could be good mothers when they married and retired from their profession.

        Not quite the same today. I've worked with DBAs, Business Analysts and coders who are female. Highly competent professionals for the most part. Glad they didn't settle for less.

        • Traditional roles take a while to break down. About 100 years ago it was scandalous to even consider a woman going through medical school or writing a scientific thesis.

          Except that traditions vary from culture to culture. In India, for example, there's no bias against women in technology fields, and as a result you see tons of Indian women in those positions or in tech majors in college, both there and here in the USA. Same goes for China. It's pretty common to see Chinese and Indian women in, for instan

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by StikyPad ( 445176 )

        Or biological. Women may actually enjoy the fields they gravitate toward.

    • by cptnapalm ( 120276 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @01:39PM (#38357224)

      I remember seeing a comparison between regular and home schooling with regards to boys and girls reading ability. The regular schooling had the reading gap, but the home schooled kids did not have a gap. This was a few years ago and I don't remember particulars, unfortunately.

    • by mdarksbane ( 587589 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @01:41PM (#38357264)

      I find it interesting how many people are apparently completely willing to accept that women's superiority in language ability is biological.

      • by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @01:43PM (#38357302)

        I find it interesting how many people are apparently completely willing to accept that women's superiority in language ability is biological.

        Nah. It's only better because they get lots more practice.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo@NOSpam.world3.net> on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @02:13PM (#38357764) Homepage Journal

        I find it interesting how many people are apparently completely willing to accept that women's superiority in language ability is biological.

        Men and women are not biologically the same, obviously. There is far more too it than what is between your legs though. Men produce more hormones that encourage competitiveness, women produce more that encourage nurturing. This is not unsurprising since natural selection favours men who have as many partners as possible and can protect them from harm, and women who are able to form strong relationships with strong men and their offspring.

        A lot of people seem to think that feminism is arguing that men and women are the same, but that is wrong. Feminism merely argues that men and women are of equal worth, that they both have equally valuable roles on society. The fact that historically the role of women and home makers and mothers has been seen as less important that earning a wage is the cultural bias, not the idea that men and women are different which is a simple fact.

        To give an example there was a programme on the radio about female surgeons finding it hard to get into the field. One of the major problems was that they were expected to be just like the male surgeons, available at all hours and largely free of other commitments. Since it takes a long time to become a surgeon and reproduction becomes increasingly difficult as women age they were finding that having a family life and a lack of day-care facilities as hospitals was a problem. We should value female surgeons equally and make an effort to support their needs which are different to male surgeon's, rather than expect them to be just like men.

        Of course gender is not a clear cut thing and there are men who excel in things that women have some natural tendency to be better at and vice versa, but I don't think maths is one of them.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Support their needs by allowing them to not work as many hours and be available as much? Sure, but they will get paid less, which is also another equality complaint of women. Expecting women surgeons to get paid the same, have the same employment success, but not work as much is completely unfair.

          • by Rary ( 566291 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @03:04PM (#38358630)

            Support their needs by allowing them to not work as many hours and be available as much? Sure, but they will get paid less, which is also another equality complaint of women. Expecting women surgeons to get paid the same, have the same employment success, but not work as much is completely unfair.

            And entirely a strawman. The wage disparity exists between men and women doing the same work, and that is where the complaint exists.

      • by nine-times ( 778537 ) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @02:27PM (#38358014) Homepage

        Wait a couple of years. There will be another study suggesting that it's biological again. Of course, some of the problem here lies in us starting with the assumption that these things are either nature *or* nurture, instead of entertaining the possibility that it's a complex mix of various factors that are both biological and cultural.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jythie ( 914043 )
      'spread out' is actually a key word here.

      I can not recall where I had found it, but a while back I saw a piece breaking down math and language skills by sex. What it actually came down to was a pair of overlapping bell curves. In the past it was assumed the peaks were at differnt places, with males and females 'mostly' in the same space but not quite. Turns out the peaks were actually around the same spot, but with males being more 'spread out'.. so more high scores but a similiar number of low scores.
    • I think it has more to do with testosterone. Men are biologically driven to compete. Becoming the alpha male is of great importance to humans - and many other species as well.

      The difference between math and other subjects is that it is very easy to measure and rate the level of proficiency one has - especially in elementary school. This makes it easier to compete against one's piers in math then other subjects. And due to their competitive nature, men will invest more time and energy into the subject

    • by Belial6 ( 794905 )

      It states that females are biologically equal to males in maths abilities, but superior to men in language ability.

      Which is also cultural. Although, I have serious doubts that women actually are better with language, and it isn't just the claim is a cultural artifact.

      People seem to be oblivious that when the question of abilities is posed over whether it is nature or nurture, the answer is... Yes.

      Our culture, and I would assume every single other culture on the planet, is so steeped in cultural gender roles that it is extremely difficult, and very possibly impossible to sort out which is which. It gets even toug

  • Math Study (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AshtangiMan ( 684031 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @01:32PM (#38357122)

    I worked on a grant looking at math skills and correlating with language, gender, age, and other factors amongst three population groups (white, hispanic, and navaho). We followed a group of third graders through the fifth grade, and a group of sixth graders through the eighth grade. Very interesting stuff, and at least in my corner of the US it was very obvious that as students moved on in school they liked math less, felt it had less value, and also performed worse on the tests. In the third grade group almost everyone believed that math was important, that they would use it in their jobs, and stated that they liked math. By the eighth grade only a few still felt this way, and of those almost all were boys. I was the programmer, created the test instruments, database for the results, etc, so I never saw the entire set of results, but heard that the young cohort pretty much proved that there was very little gender or cultural bias against math aside from poverty (which interestingly seemed to indicate a dislike of it).

    • by r00t ( 33219 )

      the young cohort pretty much proved

      Right, and no gender-specific changes occur after third grade? FAIL.

    • In the third - fifth grade the kids were learning addition and subtraction, key tasks for everyone in all jobs. If you buy or sell anything, even groceries, you need and use those skills every day.

      In the 8th grade, they have gone beyond + and -. Multiplication and division are still helpful, but not absolutely necessary for everyday life. By the time you get to algebra and calculus, we are teaching skills that the majority of jobs don't need.

      So most of those kids were RIGHT - they did not end up using it

  • While... (Score:4, Funny)

    by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @01:37PM (#38357182) Homepage Journal

    Men may multiply...

    Women divide into two, or more.

  • by geoffrobinson ( 109879 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @01:40PM (#38357250) Homepage

    It was done by a man and involves lots of math.

  • by r00t ( 33219 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @01:41PM (#38357262) Journal

    Biology influences culture. DNA makes our brains, with well-proven gender differences, and our brains lead to our culture. Our culture is created directly by our brains, and also by the interaction with other people (brains).

    • by sonicmerlin ( 1505111 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @01:51PM (#38357414)

      Pretty much. Jewish people started out with massive poverty and discrimination, but worked their way to the top of the finance chain. Other minorities just become mired in a "self-defeating culture" that they create for themselves.

      Also this study contradicts every other study that's ever been done on this topic. It will need to be peer reviewed.

      • Pretty much. Jewish people started out with massive poverty and discrimination, but worked their way to the top of the finance chain.

        Well, it helps that other cultures were viewing money as evil at the time. Part of the anti-Jewish argument in the Spanish Inquisition was that the Jews controlled all the money, yet the Christian church was teaching that money was evil, and that a good Christian wouldn't work in finance.

        Gap created, gap exploited. Point Jews.

    • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @01:58PM (#38357500) Journal
      Do you really think the scientist involved in the study didn't think of that? (hint: read number 43 on their citation list). Come on.

      Briefly, biology is what comes from your genetics. It's a product of your mother and father.
      Culture is a worldview that you pick up from the people you hang around.

      In 16th century France, brutal monarchy was perfectly acceptable. In 21st century France, democracy is the worldview, and no one would accept an absolute king. The genetics didn't change much but the culture changed.

      More to the point, they have two reasons to believe that culture is what is making the difference. First, as culture has changed in the US, more women are being drawn towards mathematics. Second, in some places that are culturally different than the US, women even do better than men at math and science.

      Please read the study next time, you'll be informed which will keep you from making idiotic comments.
    • by izomiac ( 815208 )
      Very true. One theory that I like is that, in early human groups, men were the hunters while women were the gatherers. Biologically, this makes sense, because men are a bit more expendable and gathering is amenable to child rearing. One good piece of evidence for this is that ~10% of men have a color deficiency (e.g., instead of RGB vision, it's GB), while ~2-% of women have tetrachromacy (RGGB). The former is advantageous for seeing through typical camouflage, while the latter is useful for distinguish
    • Biology influences culture. DNA makes our brains, with well-proven gender differences, and our brains lead to our culture. Our culture is created directly by our brains, and also by the interaction with other people (brains).

      By that logic, new financial instruments are influenced by Biology as well. As you said, our DNA makes our brains and our brains make financial instruments. Therefore, financial instruments are biologically influenced.

      Yeah, you can say that, I guess. It's technically "correct." However, it makes implications about Biology being a much larger influence than it actually is. Humans around the globe are genetically extremely similar, regardless of ethnicity or race. If culture is so Biology-dependent, then

  • by vivek7006 ( 585218 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @01:42PM (#38357290) Homepage

    What do you say we go back to my room and do some math: add you and me, subtract our clothes, divide your legs, and multiply.

  • A lot of facts that are chalked up to the effects of prejudice, or racial differences are far more likely to be due to cultural differences.

    The effect of cultural differences as a factor in gender gaps within professions, IQ/academic performance differences between races, etc seems to be relatively unexplored.

  • Or boys and girls? And Mathematics..or Arithmetic?

    If the differences were biological wouldn't one want to wait until key biological differences between men and women had settled out more, say..I don't know..puberty?

    I don't know if the differences are biological or not, but reading through the study it seems a rather flawed basis to back the statement "Men aren't better than women at math, biologically".

  • Those that understand ternary, those that don't, and women.
  • One day... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by spidercoz ( 947220 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @01:54PM (#38357452) Journal
    When I have kids of my own, I'm raising them to be math and science nerds like the old man, especially any daughters.
    • Re:One day... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by vlm ( 69642 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @02:09PM (#38357686)

      When I have kids of my own, I'm raising them to be math and science nerds like the old man, especially any daughters.

      My experience with this is you can control which opportunities they get, but they decide what they actually like. Don't turn in the math equivalent of the screaming sports parent.

  • by Xanny ( 2500844 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @02:02PM (#38357574)

    I mean, there is this big cultural panic that women don't go into STEM and everyone wonders why. They point out that they are force fed dolls, and shows about mothering, princesses and other assorted crud, where boys are fed high strength stuff like GI Joe and Bob the Builder.

    But that isnt the cause of the divide. The culture inside public schools is almost as immobile as governments, because the younger children adopt the values of the older ones to try to fit in, be cool, and seem more mature. The effect of peers on kids growing up has more profound effects than any specific media they are consuming - it is more a product of their behavior around one another than it is from what they watch on tv

    I dont have any sources off the top of my head, but from other discussions on this topic, the general consensus is a home schooled boy and girl completely cut off from peer influence have absolutely no real discernible preference away from math, that statistically if you introduce math in interesting and purposeful ways, both of them can like it, and develop interests in it. There is no genetic or hormonal effect prohibiting either from developing a fascination with any particular field. So of course it is cultural, but I believe it is in the in-culture of public schooling, must less the culture of society as a whole, that keeps this problem from being dealt with.

    • I do remember reading about the differences between home schooled and regular schooled kids. If memory serves, and it might not, there was neither a big math nor reading gap.

    • You're right. However, I must say that as a public school math teacher I chafe a little at the "inside public schools" comment, only because most of us inside really, really want to change, but it's mostly not inside factors stopping us, but outside influences (things like the math wars in the 1990s).

      I have a colleague here who is a veteran top-notch math teacher who did his masters thesis on gender segregating his 5-7th grade math classes at a prestigious secular private school. Not only did the attitu

      • by cptdondo ( 59460 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @03:36PM (#38359190) Journal

        There's some of that, and then there's the gross stereotyping on TV. The best thing that parents can do is keep their kids away from kids' shows (or any shows) on TV. Think about it - dads are always portrayed as bumbling nincompoops, attractive girls are either bitchy or bubbleheads, smart kids are always pencil necked geeks, and the cool people are the stupid rebels without a clue.

        No wonder our kids adopt those attitudes. You want to be attractive to boys? Be a bubblehead. Want to be cool? Ditch school. GAH!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @02:16PM (#38357798)

    This doesn't surprise me in the slightest. I've gone to many conferences for women in advanced mathematics and computer sciences and the number one thing I notice is how international they all are... even when they are supposedly for US women. I've said for years that the proof that there is no gender gap can be seen by looking at the mathematicians coming out of the former Soviet republics. Plenty of those mathematicians are women and they don't understand why so few American women enter the field.

    By contrast, growing up in the US, I remember the "advanced" math groups in elementary school being pretty evenly split across genders. The disparity started increasing in junior high and was readily apparent in high school... and it wasn't because the math got harder. Many of the girls who picked up algebra quicker than most of the boys in fifth grade were opting not to take AP Calculus because "it wasn't really necessary." By contrast, a lot of the guys in the calculus classes hadn't been in advanced math before, but were taking calculus because it was "required to get in to a good school." That's not a biological difference... it's cultural. We have to stop teaching our girls that it's okay to be bad at this stuff.

  • by aretae ( 1631299 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @02:23PM (#38357950)
    Background: 1. I'm a math wunderkind (college classes in elementary school). 2. I spent ~20 years teaching math and programming to all levels of students. I read most of the study, and as far as I've been able to tell... A. They don't seem to reject the null hypothesis (Male IQ stdev ~= 16.5, Female IQ stdev ~= 13)... B. They don't seem to address my major analysis, which is differing attitudes towards risk. The best female students in the class are always the ones who do EXACTLY what you tell them to, perfectly. The best male students in a class are the ones who don't do what you tell them to, but try other things, and succeed brilliantly. C. Option 3 for reasons for variance is interest. Anyone who's ever had a boy and a girl, tried to be gender neutral with them, and watched the boy chase trucks and guns, and the girl chase dolls...there are questions of focus. D. On average, 1 of 100 guys is willing to spend 100 hour weeks trying to win. Girls have higher sanity scores. 100 hour weeks attempting to do a single thing is nuts...40-50 hour weeks is more sane, especially if you care about other things (like kids, friends, etc). however, Hours spent on a topic is roughly equal to skill. And so the insane people are the best.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Ameryll ( 2390886 )
      "C. Option 3 for reasons for variance is interest. Anyone who's ever had a boy and a girl, tried to be gender neutral with them, and watched the boy chase trucks and guns, and the girl chase dolls...there are questions of focus."

      As a woman who worked in 3rd grade class rooms trying to teach children to program lego robots, the big fault with your statement is "ever had a boy *and* a girl." For some reason, that I don't entirely understand, put a box of legos in front of girls and boys and the boys will g

    • by turing_m ( 1030530 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @04:52PM (#38360774)

      The goal of this study, AFAICT, is to prove Summers wrong in the name of PC. The fact that they mention the Summers controversy in the first paragraph kind of gives that away. Summers was talking about why 'women may have been underrepresented "in tenured positions in science and engineering at top universities and research institutions"'.

      It's telling that the authors of this study chose to include data from 86 countries in order to prove their point. In fact, they choose to focus on countries like Tunisia and Bahrain to make their point. Why not the USA, where most of the people in the tenured positions are coming from? Because when they do, the best that they can come up with is a statement like this: "For example, Hyde and collaborators ([20], [25]) reported that girls have now reached parity with boys in mean mathematics performance in the United States, even in high school, where a significant gap in mean performance existed in the 1970s. Likewise, both Brody and Mills ([3]) and Wai et al. ([51]) noted a drop in nonrandom samples of students under thirteen years of age, from 13:1 in the 1970s down to approximately 3:1 by the 1990s in the ratio of U.S. boys to girls scoring above 700 on the quantitative section of the college-entrance SAT examination."

      3 to 1 is still huge, and they are trying to make the case that this result might keep going until it is 1:1 like the mean result already nearly is. In fact, that the result of boys:girls in SAT score above 700 (a measure of variance) is still 3 to 1 while there is gender equality in the mean result is an indication that probably 3 to 1 is the most female favorable result that they are going to get. Because the SAT is a proxy IQ test, this is basically saying that while the mean is equal there are 3 times as many men as women in the IQ stratum from which the people who are gifted enough to enter tenured positions in science and engineering at top universities and research institutions can be drawn from.

      But let's ignore that and focus on Tunisia and Bahrain, shall we?

  • by bradley13 ( 1118935 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @02:29PM (#38358052) Homepage

    Just amazing, what statements you can make about such clear data. Many, many studies to date have shown that male and female abilities in mathematics are roughly the same. Nearly as many have shown support for a higher variance amongst males, meaning there are more stupid and more brilliant men. This has been (and is) used as the explanation for the predominance of men at the very top levels of STEM fields.

    So...this paper claims "greater male variability...[is] largely [an] artifact of a complex variety of sociocultural factors".

    Look at Figure 1.B. in the paper and read their discussion of it. With three only three exceptions - two of which are outliers for other reasons, all of their data supports the variability hypothesis. The same can be seen in Figure 1.C - with the same three exceptions, all of the variance ratios are above 1, with an average around 1.16.

    In the end, their data plainly supports the same conclusions drawn by all of the other studies. The sincere desire to reach a PC conclusion apparently blinds the authors to the plain meaning of their own data.

    • Just amazing, what statements you can make about such clear data. Many, many studies to date have shown that male and female abilities in mathematics are roughly the same. Nearly as many have shown support for a higher variance amongst males, meaning there are more stupid and more brilliant men. This has been (and is) used as the explanation for the predominance of men at the very top levels of STEM fields.

      So...this paper claims "greater male variability...[is] largely [an] artifact of a complex variety of sociocultural factors".

      Look at Figure 1.B. in the paper and read their discussion of it. With three only three exceptions - two of which are outliers for other reasons, all of their data supports the variability hypothesis. The same can be seen in Figure 1.C - with the same three exceptions, all of the variance ratios are above 1, with an average around 1.16.

      In the end, their data plainly supports the same conclusions drawn by all of the other studies. The sincere desire to reach a PC conclusion apparently blinds the authors to the plain meaning of their own data.

      If you bothered reading the text rather than just looking at the pretty pictures, you'd find that they were not disputing that variance exists, but that it's innate. Read the second sentence of that section:

      If true, the variance ratios (VRs) for all countries should be greater than unity and similar in value.

      But they're not:

      In fact, the VRs calculated using the 2007 TIMSS eighth-grade data set studied in detail here varied widely among countries, ranging all the way from 0.91 to 1.52 (Figure 1A).

      Variances for girls and boys also varied widely throughout a threefold range (Figure 1B). Countries with small variances typically had VRs within 0.2 of unity. Most of the countries with large VRs were ones that also had unusually large boys’ variances.

      And you know what that means?

      Therefore, we conclude that both variance and VR in mathematics performance vary greatly among countries.

      And since the Y chromosome isn't different in each country, that indicates that it's not the Y chromosome causing those variances.

      In the end, your sincere desire to slam the article for disagreeing with your beliefs apparently blinds you to the plain meaning

  • by bcrowell ( 177657 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @02:30PM (#38358056) Homepage

    The article lists five hypotheses:

    • 1 greater male variability
    • 2 gender-stratified
    • 3 gap due to inequity
    • 4 Muslim culture
    • 5 single-gender classroom

    They claim that all but #2 are ruled out by their data. What I can't figure out is the distinction between 2 and 3. 3 is that the gap is "due to differences in opportunities available to males versus females." 2 is defined in their reference [2] http://www.jstor.org/pss/2112795 [jstor.org] as being about access to jobs and higher education. I don't understand the distinction.

    I got interested in this stuff recently because I teach physics, and our statistics showed that women had a lower success rate in our classes than men. This was kind of worrisome, since women generally do better than men in college, and women do better than men at our school in math, and in the other sciences besides physics. Turned out that if we controlled for what class they were taking, the effect vanished. Lots of women were taking the physics class for biology majors, which has a low success rate. Almost no women take the physics class fo engineering majors, which has a higher success rate. In the class for biology majors, women actually did better than men. It impressed me with how subtle this kind of thing can be.

  • The means were about the same so that contradicts the greater male variability theory? The authors clearly didn't understand what "greater male variability" means. Greater male variability addresses why there are more males at the tops of industries, it says little to nothing about the average male. How about this, we encourage people to do what they are interested in and are good at (often correlated) instead of trying to steer men or women into fields? If it ends up 60/40, 30/70, or whatever doesn't m
  • This is nothing new, just a new study that confirms what has been said before.

    Previous studies have found that, when adjusted for economic differences, geographical, ethic, racial etc..... the only consistent difference in math achievement was found to be between people who believed that math was a ingrained talent and those who believed it was a learned skill.

    That this attitude is partially cultural is hardly surprising. Even the original study noted that cultures which had the highest percentages of peopl

  • Read a book, read a book, read a motherfucking book
    Do your math, do your math, do your goddamned math
    Blame yourself, blame yourself, not your skin or dick or cooch
    Dumb's a choice, dumb's a choice, so SUCK IT UP if you drop out.

    Thank you, thank you, I'll be here all week.

An egghead is one who stands firmly on both feet, in mid-air, on both sides of an issue. -- Homer Ferguson

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