Girls tackle basic and complex mathematical problems as well as boys do, a departure from the findings of a 1990 study that found significant gender differences, a UC Berkeley professor and her research team from the University of Wisconsin concluded.
Armed with a National Science Foundation grant, the team crunched the standardized test scores of 7 million students to see how the boys’ and girls’ averages measured up. They also compared the percentages of boys and girls who scored at the high end of the spectrum to see if there were more boys than girls at the top. There weren’t.
The reason? Well, it’s not earth-shattering. Researchers think it’s because girls are finally taking the same number of advanced math courses as boys.
Notably, the researchers had to look beyond the standardized tests required by NCLB to determine how well children of each gender solved complex problems. They combed 10 state exams for examples of highly challenging, real-world math — and found zilch, according to this news release:
What this suggests, said Hyde, is that if teachers are gearing instruction toward states’ NCLB assessments, abilities in complex problem solving may drop in the future in both boys and girls, leaving them ill-prepared for careers in math, science and engineering.
“The tests we are currently using are really not asking students to perform the types of tasks they are likely to encounter in the workforce,” (UC Berkeley Professor Marcia) Linn said. The lack of complex problems on assessment tests “doesn’t motivate teachers or textbook developers to create material that challenges students, and it sends the wrong message to schools with regard to what should be emphasized in math courses.”
Do you think that, even in 2008, some parents and teachers believe that girls aren’t quite as good at mathematical problem-solving? Is that a myth that still needs to be shattered?
image from EDU018’s site at flickr.com/creativecommons