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Sex and mathematical ability

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Large, representative studies of US students show that no sex differences in mathematics performance exist before secondary school.[1] During and after secondary school, historic sex differences in mathematics enrollment account for nearly all of the sex differences in mathematics performance.[1] However, a performance difference in mathematics on the SAT exists favoring males, though differences in mathematics course performance measures favor females.[1] With over 300 studies on the subject,[2] Stereotype threat has been shown to affect performance and confidence in mathematics of both males and females.[3][1]

In a 2008 study[4] paid for by the National Science Foundation in the United States, researchers found that "girls perform as well as boys on standardized math tests. Although 20 years ago, high school boys performed better than girls in math, the researchers found that is no longer the case. The reason, they said, is simple: Girls used to take fewer advanced math courses than boys, but now they are taking just as many."[5] However, the study indicated that, while on average boys and girls performed similarly, boys were overrepresented among the very best performers as well as among the very worst.[6][7]

In 1983, Benbow concluded that the study showed a large sex difference by age 13 and that it was especially pronounced at the high end of the distribution.[8] However, Gallagher and Kaufman criticized Benbow's and other reports finding males overrepresented in the highest percentages as not ensuring representative sampling.[1]

Some psychologists believe that many historical and current sex differences in mathematics performance may be related to boy's higher likelihood of receiving math encouragement than girls. Parents were, and sometimes still are, more likely to consider a son's mathematical achievement as being a natural skill while a daughter's mathematical achievement is more likely to be seen as something she studied hard for. This difference in attitude may contribute to girls and women being discouraged from further involvement in mathematics-related subjects and careers.[9]

See alsoEdit


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Ann M. Gallagher, James C. Kaufman, Gender differences in mathematics: an integrative psychological approach, Cambridge University Press, 2005, ISBN 0521826055, 9780521826051
  3. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Fine
  4. Hyde, J., Lindberg, S., Linn, M., Ellis, A., & Williams, C. (2008). Diversity: Gender Similarities Characterize Math Performance. Science 321 (5888): 494–5.
  5. Lewin, Tamar (July 25, 2008)."Math Scores Show No Gap for Girls, Study Finds", The New York Times.
  6. Winstein, Keith J. (July 25, 2008). "Boys' Math Scores Hit Highs and Lows", The Wall Street Journal (New York).
  7. Benbow, Camilla Persson, David Lubinski, Daniel L. Shea, Hossain Eftekhari-Sanjani (2000-11). Sex Differences in Mathethematical Reasoning Ability at Age 13: Their Status 20 Years Later. Psychological Science 11 (6): 474–480.
  8. Camilla Persson Benbow, Stanley Julian C (1983). 'Sex Differences in Mathematical Reasoning Ability: More Facts'. Science 222 (4627): 1029–1031.
  9. Wood, Samual; Wood, Ellen; Boyd Denise (2004). "World of Psychology, The (Fifth Edition)" , Allyn & Bacon ISBN 0205361374
Categoory:Mathematical psychology
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