Cousin E pointed out something odd about the International Mathematical Olympiad. It’s an annual competition for high school students. And girls do super poorly in it. We ran some stats on the data for 2015 and 2016, and found that a national team with more than one female member gets less than half the median points per capita of an all-male team. With one female member, it’s 59-78%.

The question I want to address is not whether women are in empirical fact worse at maths than men. Nor do I, if this is the case, want to discuss whether it’s because of nature or nurture. I want to understand how the IMO works. Look at this.

1. Every country finds its six best maths students to make a team. In some countries, some of the best students are girls and beat out large numbers of boys to get on the team.

2. When these teams compete against each other internationally, suddenly teams with a female member do way worse than all-male teams.

3. Why are these girls super strong on the national level, but super weak on the international level? Is it because they are on male-dominated teams instead of working solo?

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