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Girls don’t suck at math

October 29th, 2006     by Zoe Cormier     Comments

Hope you guys all heard about this study debunking the idea that boys are inherently better at math than girls. Basically, they gave a bunch of women a math test each group was required to read a little essay before writing the test. Those who read an essay about how women are inferior at math because of their genes didnt do well on the test. Those who read an essay telling them their gender was irrelevant to the test did well. And heres the really interesting part: women who were simply reminded of their gender didnt do as well as those told gender played no part in math ability.

This isnt the first study of its kind many have shown that female performance on math tests varies with what you tell them about women and math beforehand. One classic study gave a math test to Asian women. Those reminded they were women did poorly and those reminded that they were Asian did well. (Obviously the reminder made them think of the Asians are good at math stereotype.)

The general scientific thinking is usually that men are slightly better at visual and spatial tests (which includes things involving numbers) and women are slightly better at linguistic tests. I admit, Ive always had a tiny bit of sympathy for this idea (erroneous as it might be). Although I dont suck at math, I really hate it and I love words and writing.

But then youve got to think about how women might appear to be worse at math because of cultural norms all sorts of studies have shown that girls get less time and attention in math classes from their teachers. So it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: people dont think girls are good at math, so teachers dont give them the attention and time they need in school, so their math skills suffer, they grow up to have little confidence or enjoyment in math, and then we all think women really do suck at math.

So it’s always great to see studies like this, that reinforce the idea that women can intellectually stand toe-to-toe with men on any subject.

Tags: news flash

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