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Math Gender Gap More Complicated than Thought

Category: Science & Technology
Posted: 08:29AM

A number of studies and educational resources have gone into closing the gender gap that shows male students outperforming their female counterparts in subjects such as math. As there is little to no physical explanation for this gap, people want to close it and are putting a fair amount of effort into doing so. Researchers at Brigham Young University though have found that the source of the gender gap may be more complicated than previously thought.

Most people would think that to identify if the gender gap exists they should simply give male and female students the same test and see who performs better. It turns out that while that does indeed reveal a gap, if you give the students a second test, the gap will disappear. The Brigham researchers had 24 elementary schools hold five-round contests the students participated in, and after the first round the score differences between the boys and girls disappeared. The researchers also found that when the teachers told the students, "It's not a race," thus reducing the pressure of the time constraint, the girls again performed as well as the boys.

The researchers suggest that while it may seem that girls shy away from competition, encouraging them to stick around will overcome any disparity between them and boys. Such a finding could have some very interesting impacts on how schools approach gender gaps in the future.

Source: Brigham Young University

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masterbinky on March 2, 2013 07:45AM
I remember a study that pointed out how harmful the fact that teachers would say 'math is hard'. If the teachers were female, it got in the kids heads that math is hard...for females. What I would take from this is that the gap is generated by a difference in self confidence. It makes sense that this disapears after the first test, for whatever reason the self confidence is normalized so everyone is about equally confident, likely based on their immediately previous performance rather than the initial external influences.

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