A study released yesterday dispels the stereotype that men are innately better than women at mathematics. The study, printed in the journal Science, examined over 7.2 million students in grades 2 through 11 and found that girls and boys perform equally on standardized math tests, according to the Los Angeles Times.
This study shows that the gender gap in mathematical achievement has closed for high school students. There have been small sex differences in mathematics achievement for high school students and males still score higher on the quantitative section of the SAT. An explanation for the continued higher performance of males on SAT scores is a sampling issue, reports Reuters. The SATs are usually taken by college-bound students. More women than men attend college, thus 100,000 more high school aged girls take the SATs than boys. This means that the fewer boys who select to take the test tend to be of a higher academic ability than the larger pool of girls, skewing the results and allowing males higher median scores.
“The stereotype that boys do better at math is still held widely by teachers and parents. Teachers and parents guide girls, giving them advice about what courses to take, what careers to pursue. I still hear anecdotes about guidance counselors steering girls away from engineering, telling them they won’t be able to do the math,” said Dr. Janet Hyde, a professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and leader of the study, according to the New York Times.
Although women now earn 48 percent of undergraduate degrees in math, a severe disparity still exists in the fields of physics and engineering, according to the Associated Press. For more research on gender equity in mathematics, consult chapters 2 and 12 of the Handbook for Achieving Gender Equity through Education.
Progress in ending sex differences in mathematics achievement has been associated with Title IX’s prohibitions against sex discrimination in education and higher expectations for girls in all areas.