Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Why boys are better at maths


I never used to believe women were inherently worse at math until I started to read statistics on feminist websites. Now I’m not so sure…
 
The maths gender gap has been a contentious issue for half a century now. Susan Chipman outlines the history of the hysteria here,

 The maths gender gap is decried as having a social origin by the good feminists but is blamed on biological factors by the (male) chauvinists, sexists and of course, misogynists. One of the widely reported study for the former view was released in 2008 which found that the maths gender gap is correlated with the gender equality of the country in question. The following is a refutation of this study along with the startling conclusion that in a saner society, this study would've come to the conclusion that boys are indeed better at maths and at the very least,  have more potential.

The news reports,

http://www.theguardian.com/education/2008/may/30/schools.uk1 

http://www.economist.com/node/11449804

which led to hip hip hooray at places like these:

https://feministphilosophers.wordpress.com/2008/05/31/girls-innately-bad-at-math-nope/


The facts relayed with massive chest-thumping were,
0)On the international student assessment test PISA:

1)The gender gaps are environmentally affected.
2)The more "gender-equal" a country, the lesser the gap between boys' and girls' performances in maths, with countries like Iceland even showing a reversal.
3)The reading gap(in favor of girls) increases further.

In the words of the lead author herself,
Sapienza said: "Our research indicates that in more gender equal societies, girls will gain an absolute advantage relative to boys."

Thus, once we've reached the gender-equality nirvana, girls would be at least equal to boys and often will be better.

The only problem, as pointed out by La Griffe Du Lion, was that while this conclusion held up with the 2003 data, the 2006 gender gaps were not correlated at all with the 2003 data. A curious thing for a study released in 2008 to use.

http://www.lagriffedulion.f2s.com/math2.htm



A more recent study refuting the gender equality conclusion is Stoet and Geary,2013 who analysed four PISA assessments from 2000 to 2009. One of their findings is that the two gaps are inversely correlated, the higher the reading gap in favor girls, the smaller(or even negative) maths gap in favor of boys. This holds for both the countries in question and the student distributions within them.

Stoet and Geary, 2013




This finding also makes an intuitive sense, you need to read in order to do maths, especially on PISA which tests for 'maths literacy' and not classical high school mathematics, and also gives us the direction of causation.

It might also explain the lack of or smaller gender differences on the algebra portion of tests in comparison to geometry.


Interestingly, this effect was also observed in the Sapienza et al study, but the conclusion, of course, was that gender equality is driving these changes.

Gender equality in all these studies is usually measured by the Gender Gap Index, which as already discussed is more of a female superiority index which disregards female advantages and solely concerns itself with areas where they are behind.


Girls were also found to spend about 20% more time on maths homework than boys, a difference which reflects in grades. Despite boys doing better on standardized tests, they have worse grades than girls. And according to a recent study this has been true since the records were first kept.

The lack of male interest in reading is already a well-noted phenomenon, which has received scant attention compared to the gender gaps which don't favor girls; the parallels with the Gender Gap Index are totally coincidental of course.

Summing up:

1)Girls do better in reading and this difference also has repercussions for the maths gap.
2)Girls spend more effort on maths(and reading), a finding that goes against the supposedly male favoring environment of schools, at least in maths.
3)Girls also have the backing of huge social programs to succeed in maths contra male underachievement in reading skills where the difference is on the rise.


Thus the reality of the gender inequality in maths is not boys doing better due to environmental advantages but despite it.  The insistence on issues like teacher attitude and sheer ludicrousness like stereotype threat are the crutches on which feminist self-esteem relies for its much cherished gender-equality and delusions of grandeur.


PS - Age at the time of assessment is important. More girls take SAT, the verbal scores are about equal(excluding the writing scores), which gives an indication of how big the maths gap can be in absence of the reading gap.

PPS - The 70s were for maths hysteria and Title IX, the 90s for self-esteem and teacher attention crises, the current issues are video games, spatial ability and the opprobrium faced by the bossy girls. The invectives against the inequality at the top that is still in favor of boys shadows the vast waste at the average.

PPPS -
In both Study 1 and Study 2, girls ended the school year with
GPAs that were more than half a standard deviation above those of
their male classmates. Notably, girls outperformed boys in every
course subject, including both basic and advanced math. In con-
trast, gender differences favoring girls on a standardized achieve-
ment test were more modest and not statistically significant. And,
contrary to our expectation that girls and boys would do equally
well on an IQ test, the mean IQ score for girls was about half a
standard deviation lower than that for boys.




 -  Self-discipline gives girls the edge: Gender in self-discipline, grades, and achievement test scores.
     By Duckworth, Angela Lee; Seligman, Martin E. P.


Achievement scores are just less amenable to effort than grades, so even if you're looking at them and not grades there is vast wastage of potential here, unfortunately just not the right sex.


PIVS - Countries where girls do better in maths are usually developing countries or mid-eastern nations. The best girls are from northeast asia which again fare poorly on gender-equality measures.

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