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Are Boys Better at Math Than Girls?

Math―the subject that gives most students the jitters, whether boys or girls. While most male readers would take pride in the supposed 'fact' that boys are better than girls in math, research has something else to say.
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Research studies have observed that in countries that had good teachers, more gender equality, and lower levels of poverty among students, there was a minimal or no gap between the performances of girls and boys in mathematics.
An interesting find, isn't it? We have always had a stereotype notion about boys being better in math than girls, and this was backed by the advertising of statements such as, "Math class is tough!", in 1992 when "Teen Talk Barbie" was released, thereby making girls believe that it was nothing but a natural trait. This is just one of the many examples that show how females are stamped as efficient, only in areas of shopping and reading.

There has been an ongoing debate about the mental capabilities of both sexes when it comes to performing different activities based on aptitude. While earlier research did observe boys outnumbering girls in mathematics on an average, a further in-depth study revealed that the difference lies not in the aptitude but in the attitude among students of the respective genders, and their teachers. The following section will highlight the various findings based on which, the myth of the "dominant gender" being better in math, has been debunked.

The Truth Behind the Preconceived Notion

Due to cultural norms and beliefs―like advertising the fact that girls and math don't get along smoothly―girls are conditioned to believe that dealing with numbers is no walk in the park. This could perhaps be the reason why girls experience more mathematics-related anxiety when compared to boys, eventually influencing their performance in tests. However, in the absence of anxiety towards the subject, it was found that no difference whatsoever, existed among the genders when it came to their performances in math. Based on the study, researchers from the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford published the following in the journal Behavior and Brain Functions: "These results might suggest that girls may have had the potential to perform better than boys in mathematics, however, their performance may have been attenuated by higher levels of (mathematics anxiety)."

Another contributing factor that has resulted in boys taking the limelight, is their impulsive nature. Research states that boys are likely to be more impulsive than girls, due to which they are the ones to participate more in the question-answer session during math class, however, they are also likely to give wrong answers when compared to their female counterparts. Girls, on the other hand, take more time in computing the solution and therefore, are the ones to give fewer, but more accurate answers. A study conducted by the University of Missouri confirmed the said fact by observing 300 students from grade one to grade six.

Gender prejudices have also been observed in society, including classrooms. Research stated that mathematics teachers in high schools considered girls to be less math-savvy when compared to boys, irrespective of the fact that their test scores were more or less equivalent to boys. The attitude possessed by society―including math teachers―is a predominant factor in stereotyping girls as non-performers in the subject. No wonder, 90% of the engineers in the United States of America are males!

Another research done by Prof. Paola Sapienza of Northwestern University took into account students from across the globe to determine if gender played a role in the difference in math scores. She said, "The so-called gender gap in math skills seems to be at least partially correlated to environmental factors." She also said, "Our research indicates that in more gender equal societies, girls will gain an absolute advantage relative to boys."

The examples of researches and studies cited above imply that the gender-based gap is only made by the environment rather than the X and Y chromosomes. What is needed at this point is to alter our mindset and discuss how the perceived inequality can be eliminated from our society. The first step should be to stop drilling it into the female psyche that they cannot be good with numbers. In fact, parents need to support their girl child and make them believe that math is not rocket science.
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Published: September 17, 2013
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This is so sexist you embrace negative stereotypes about boys yet you disregard negative traits about girls based on a single flawed study the truth is that school and society is inherently biased against males we should be working to help boys catch up not help girls increase their advantage - Wallace [June 6, 2014]
This article is sexist. Some boys are smarter than some girls, and some girls are smarter than some boys. I'm smarter than most boys, but there are boys who best me at math. - Mi Mi [March 15, 2014]
girl are smarter - alexandra [March 6, 2014]
nice but we want in tamil - g.dinesh kumar [November 22, 2013]