Posted by: Dave Moursund
Tagged in: Women in STEM Education
One of the signs of improvement in our educational system is that girls are now allowed and encouraged to do as well as boys in math. Back when I was growing up, girls were discouraged from taking advanced math courses in high school and from being math or science majors.
I recently read the following article:
Tenenbaum, David (10/11/2010). Large study shows females are equal to males in math skills. University of Wisconsin-Madison News. Retrieved 11/3/2010 from http://www.news.wisc.edu/18508.
I was pleased by the content of this article—and I was also pleased to see that it came from the school where I earned my doctorate in math. The extensive report from which it came is currently one of the free articles made available by the American Psychological Association. See aslo the related article by Else-Quest, Hyde, and Linn at http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/bul-136-1-103.pdf.
Quoting from the Tenenbaum article:
The mathematical skills of boys and girls, as well as men and women, are substantially equal, according to a new examination of existing studies in the current online edition of Psychological Bulletin.
One portion of the new study looked systematically at 242 articles that assessed the math skills of 1,286,350 people, says chief author Janet Hyde, a professor of psychology and women's studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
These studies, all published in English between 1990 and 2007, looked at people from grade school to college and beyond. A second portion of the new study examined the results of several large, long-term scientific studies, including the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
In both cases, Hyde says, the difference between the two sexes was so close as to be meaningless.
Quoting from the abstract of the APA article authored by Else-Quest, Hyde, and Linn:
A gender gap in mathematics achievement persists in some nations but not in others. In light of the underrepresentation of women in careers in science, technology, mathematics, and engineering, increasing research attention is being devoted to understanding gender differences in mathematics achievement, attitudes, and affect. The gender stratification hypothesis maintains that such gender differences are closely related to cultural variations in opportunity structures for girls and women. We meta-analyzed 2 major international data sets, the 2003 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study and the Programme for International Student Assessment, representing 493,495 students 14–16 years of age, to estimate the magnitude of gender differences in mathematics achievement, attitudes, and affect across 69 nations throughout the world. Consistent with the gender similarities hypothesis, all of the mean effect sizes in mathematics achievement were very small (d _ 0.15); however, national effect sizes showed considerable variability (ds__0.42 to 0.40). Despite gender similarities in achievement, boys reported more positive math attitudes and affect (ds _ 0.10 to 0.33); national effect sizes ranged from d__0.61 to 0.89. In contrast to those of previous tests of the gender stratification hypothesis, our results point to specific domains of gender equity responsible for gender gaps in math. Gender equity in school enrollment, women’s share of research jobs, and women’s parliamentary representation were the most powerful predictors of cross-national variability in gender gaps in math. Results are situated within the context of existing research demonstrating apparently paradoxical effects of societal gender equity and highlight the significance of increasing girls’ and women’s agency cross-nationally.
What You Can Do
You know that the message sent is not necessarily the message received. You, for example, have “constructed” a personal meaning to my message given above. My overall intent is to provide you with some information and ideas that you will act upon in a manner that leads to improving our informal and formal educational systems.
So, pause for a few seconds and think about the meaning you have constructed from my message and some possible action that you might take based on that meanin. What occurs to you that you, personally, will try out in your quest to improve our educational system?
As a personal example, I have long been interested in gender inequality in math education and in other areas. One of the things that I did in helping to raise my own girls (indeed, all of my children) was to provide them with personal help and encouragement in ICT, math, and science.
Spend a bit of time reflecting on what you have just read. How does the information fit in with your current knowledge, beliefs, and activities? How can you make use of the information to help improve our informal and formal educational systems? Who do you know that might benefit from reading this IAE Blog entry?
If the IAE Blog entries are useful to you, then consider signing up for a Free Subscription. (See the menu on the left side of the page). You will automatically receive email about new postings to the IAE Blog. Typically, there are about three new postings per week.
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Suggested Readings from IAE and Other Publications
You can use Google to search all of the IAE publications. Click here to begin. Then click in the IAE Search box that is provided, insert your search terms, and click on the Search button.
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Here are some examples of publications that might interest you.
Comparing different educational systems nationally or internationally. See http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/comparing-different-educational-systems-nationally-or-internationally-.html.
Encouraging girls into the discipline of computer and information science. See http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/encouraging-girls-into-the-discipline-of-computer-and-information-science.html.
Females versus males in our educational system. See http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/females-versus-males-in-our-educational-system.html.
ICT and home schooling. See http://iae-pedia.org/ICT_and_Home_Schooling .
Math anxiety and stress. See http://i-a-e.org/newsletters/IAE-Newsletter-2012-94.html.
Math education. See http://iae-pedia.org/Math_Education.
Math maturity. See http://iae-pedia.org/Math_Maturity.
New report reveals that children have the edge in new technologies. See http://www.herts.ac.uk/news-and-events/latest-news/Children-have-the-edge-in-new-technologies.cfm.
Women and ICT. See http://iae-pedia.org/Women_and_ICT.