When it comes to math, there has long been a stereotype that boys are “better” or more adept at the subject than girls. This idea can be traced back to traditional gender roles, where women and men are expected to possess certain skill sets – with mathematics seen as falling within male educational strengths. But is this assumption true?
Studies show that while female students may struggle in some areas of mathematics, they tend to excel in others – providing an interesting counterpoint to the notion that boys simply have an edge over girls when it comes to numbers. In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at how performance between genders stacks up – and whether stereotypes about math still hold any weight today. We will also discuss how math intervention programs may be advantageous for boys or girls.
Girls Are Underrepresented
According to the most recent data compiled by the U.S. Department of Education, a trend of women outstripping men in college enrollment and degree attainment persists, with a single exception: mathematics. Women have gained ground in mathematics education and achieved success as mathematics professionals; however, mathematics is still largely a male-dominated field, both at the university level and professionally.
Despite their progress in mathematics over the past several decades, women remain underrepresented in mathematics research and occupation positions compared to men, perhaps due to entrenched gender roles or unbalanced access to mathematics resources during childhood. It is essential that all genders are able to pursue mathematics with equal access and opportunity if we wish to achieve parity in mathematics fields.
Results In Different Countries
In 2012, international tests were given to fifteen-year-olds worldwide. They showed that boys achieved higher levels than girls in mathematics in thirty-eight countries. However, in the United States and Canada, the achievement of boys and girls was found to be equal.
When the research team released further details, their report showed that when anxiety was factored into the analysis, the gap in achievement was only a difference in mathematics confidence levels. It was noted that girls became more anxious when taking individual math tests. This phenomenon is commonly known as math anxiety, and it makes a case for educators to take a closer look before passing decisions regarding test performance.
Are Boys Better?
A recent groundbreaking study from the University of Chicago, the University of Rochester, and Carnegie Mellon, also set out to find the truth about a gender gap in mathematics. While investigating the early biology of math and gender, researchers were able to conclude that learning math is similar in boys and girls. In the brain, math concepts engage the same neural networks of the brain during the critical years of cognitive development, regardless of gender.
If boys were better at learning math than girls, their brains would show a biological origin for this strength. This study shows without a doubt that neural activity did not change from boys to girls.
Researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging to assess brain activity in 3 – 10-year-old children to compare the neural processes involved in learning math. As both girls and boys interacted with math videos, both drew on the same areas of the brain known for their association with math ability. There was no higher aptitude found in boys for learning math or for processing numbers compared to their female counterparts.
Girls In STEM
Even though these studies show that girls and boys learn math equally, according to the National Science Foundation, there is still gender inequality in the STEM fields. Although jobs in engineering, physical sciences, mathematics, and computer sciences have the smallest gender pay gaps and have some of the highest areas of job growth in the global economy, the lack of women in these fields could lead to future gender income inequality.
When females are underrepresented in traditionally male-dominated careers like STEM, entrepreneurship, and politics, their perspective is lost from the conversation. Research has proven that having females in leadership roles yields innovative solutions, yet when females aren’t included, their ideas aren’t heard, and innovation suffers as a result. It’s necessary for females to have an equal seat at the table so that their unique contributions can shape future solutions. Without female voices, needs and desires are left unheard, hindering progress and taking away from potential creative solutions. This ultimately slows the pace of development, leaving females behind in terms of representation and opportunities.
Getting Girls Interested In Math
So, how do we get both girls and boys as equally excited about mathematics and STEM majors throughout their education?
Many people believe that it will take parents and teachers to address the math gender gap and debunk the myth that boys are better at learning math than girls. By taking action to help girls believe they can achieve in math, more will be willing and want to go into the math and science fields.
When girls are reminded of boys’ dominance in learning math, they tend to perform lower on academic tests. This stereotype can act as a stressor to performance. This is where parents and teachers can step in and help with math anxiety that could be hindering girls from performing at their best during mathematics tests.
Research shows that girls who have a growth vs. fixed mindset about learning math are likely to believe in their abilities more. So, working on a math mindset may help girls perform better on math tests.
Now is the time to get girls into a better mindset so they can thrive in mathematics. If your child is struggling with math, you may find that a math intervention program can help. But, before you start searching for “math tutor near me,” learn more about Dropkick Math Academy. We are an alternative to math tutoring that could help your child overcome their math anxiety.
Our programs are designed to help children who may be experiencing math anxiety and help boost their confidence through fun and engaging game-based learning. Learn more today and get your child on the road to learning!