Girls Doing Math

Comments

  1. #1 sciencegoddess
    September 2, 2009

    I just recently spoke to a father (a physicist) whose high school age daughter was asking for help from her young FEMALE math teacher. This teacher unbelievably told the girl: “It’s ok if you think this is hard. Most girls don’t do well in math.”

    It seems there is very little hope to encourage girls if there are female math teachers perpetuating the ‘stereotype’.

  2. #2 Jim Lippard
    September 2, 2009

    What happens if *men* are told that men perform worse on math tests? Same effect, or not?

    If not, is this study saying women are more suggestible to poor performance? And if so, is that itself caused by stereotypes?

  3. #3 Greg Laden
    September 2, 2009

    I hear this ALL THE TIME!!!!

    In our family, I’m the one holding the PhD and I’ve done a lot of quantitative work and so on and so forth, but when my daughter needs help with math, Amanda steps in (unless it’s stats, then I tend to jump in but there is not much of that).

    But I’m sure this is not the assumption people make.

  4. #4 Greg Laden
    September 2, 2009

    Jim: I think the men getting positive reinforcement helps them do better.

  5. #5 Jim Lippard
    September 2, 2009

    Looks like the study only looked at women:

    http://www-news.uchicago.edu/releases/07/pdf/070524.beilock.pdf

    I thought there was strong evidence that women outperformed men at math through a certain age level, then it reverses.

  6. #6 MPL
    September 2, 2009

    Man, I just don’t get the “girls suck at math thing”. In all my years studying math, I can honestly attest that my testicles have never once come in handy (and yet I still bring them to every class).

  7. #7 Miss Cellania
    September 2, 2009

    Positive stereotypes can be harmful, too. My daughter got some grief for a few years because she wasn’t good in math, “and they say I’m supposed to be good in math because I’m Chinese.” I explained that the other Chinese kid in her class was only good at math because he worked hard at it (because his Chinese mom made him study for hours every day).

    But now that she has turned the corner and “gets” math, she IS very good at it. She said, “of course I’m good at math. I’m Chinese!” Grrr… no, it’s because you worked hard! Not gender, not ethnicity, it’s your work ethic that got you there.

    And by the way, it’s her own work ethic, because unfortunately she has white parents who DON’T make her study for hours on end.

  8. #8 Greg Laden
    September 2, 2009

    I love that … it’s not being Chinese, it’s having a Chinese mother that counts!!!

  9. #9 Joshua Zelinsky
    September 2, 2009

    While we’re on the subject, one positive generalization I’ve noticed about females in regards to math: They seem to be more willing to go to office hours than males. It seems like with a lot of guys the male ego or something similar (stereotype about guys not asking for directions?) gets in the way. On the other hand, the female willingness to get help might be because of not despite the stereotype about girls and math, because the stereotype would make them more likely to think they needed help? I’m not sure.

  10. #10 mrcreosote
    September 2, 2009
  11. #11 Mike H
    September 2, 2009

    Women are not (in general) as good at mathematics as men are. SAT results bear this out beyond any doubt. That’s not to say that there are not some women who are very talented in math, but statistically speaking the average woman is not as adept as the average man.

    You all can bury your heads in the sand and feast at the trough of postmodern PC garbage if that makes you feel better. After all everyone knows gender is nothing more than a social construct created by the white male patriarchy to maintain its power structure.

  12. #12 Greg Laden
    September 2, 2009

    Mike: Gender is nothing like a social construct. Not even close. You should take my class on biology of gender next time I teach it.

    Regarding math, you’re wrong on that one two (what are you, the “anti-right” or something?). Girls diverge from the mean in math during middle school or a bit later. This is not because of native ability or biological aspects of gender, but because of social factors. Girls not being good at math is very much a social construct. No one disputes this any more. Except you, apparently.

  13. #13 Mike H
    September 2, 2009

    Mike: Gender is nothing like a social construct. Not even close. You should take my class on biology of gender next time I teach it.

    Got sarcasm?

    Regarding math, you’re wrong on that one two (what are you, the “anti-right” or something?).

    I am sure you meant to write “too”.

    Girls diverge from the mean in math during middle school or a bit later. This is not because of native ability or biological aspects of gender, but because of social factors.

    Hmm … either that or the massive influx of testosterone and the subsequent phsiological changes that take place around that special time in a boys life.

    Nice to see that the Killing of History is rapidly branching out to the sciences.

    Girls not being good at math is very much a social construct. No one disputes this any more. Except you, apparently.

    Well, me and Larry Summers.

  14. #14 Stephanie Z
    September 2, 2009

    Mike, there’s something very special about accusing people of denying the reality in front of their faces while simultaneously talking about gender differences on SAT scores in the comments of a post about stereotype threat.

    But damn, four bingo callouts in one sentence (you people, bury your heads, postmodernism and PC)? That takes…something. Do you actually work to keep people from taking you seriously, or does it just come naturally?

  15. #15 Greg Laden
    September 2, 2009

    Mike: Gender is nothing like a social construct. Not even close. You should take my class on biology of gender next time I teach it.

    Got sarcasm?

    I was not being sarcastic. You, however, may have biases in what you assume I think.

    Hmm … either that or the massive influx of testosterone and the subsequent phsiological changes that take place around that special time in a boys life.

    Actually, testosterone diminishes math ability, so no, I don’t think so.

    Nice to see that the Killing of History is rapidly branching out to the sciences.

    I’m not sure I get your drift, but you seem to be saying that “what is ought to be.”

    .. and no, Larry has revised his comments and learned some stuff about this topic, and has a much better attitude now.

  16. #16 Greg Laden
    September 2, 2009

    Like station identification, it is important to point out every few dozen posts that Mike H. is NOT Mike Haubrich.

  17. #17 Adrian Morgan
    September 3, 2009

    This is weird.

    The story so far: Mike H makes a number of … highly disputable … statements and insinuations, among them a sarcastic statement about gender being a social construct, the point of which seems to be to insinuate that Greg and his ilk are the sort of people who would regard gender as a purely social construct.

    Greg makes it clear that he most certainly doesn’t regard gender as a purely social construct. As we know, Greg is smart enough to realise that “everything about gender is a social construct” and “nothing about gender is a social construct” are not the only two options. Mike H, on the other hand, appears to favour the latter option.

    However, Greg makes the mistake of attributing the opinion “gender is nothing more than a social construct” to Mike H, rather than to Mike H’s ill-advised characterisation of Greg.

    Then Mike H points out that Mike H was being sarcastic.

    Which Greg misinterprets as a statement that Mike H thinks that Greg was being sarcastic.

    And I didn’t think they wrote comedy scripts like that anymore.

  18. #18 Ray Ingles
    September 3, 2009

    I can’t find the study on the web (and I’d be eternally grateful if someone knew the reference), but I read about it back in the early 1990’s when I was at college and I went to the library and read the actual published article, so I know it exists.

    Researchers looked into throwing – specifically the “throws like a girl” stereotype. They had bunch of kids of various ages throw balls. On average, the girls didn’t throw as far or as accurately as boys, even when corrected for native strength. Case closed, obviously nature over nurture, right?

    Well, no. The data showed an outlier group of girls who threw as well as the best boys. And those girls happened to go for sports like baseball that involved throwing. They then had the kids come back and throw again… with their non-dominant hands. Suddenly everyone was ‘throwing like a girl’.

    The ‘throws like a girl’ bit seems to be entirely due to practice. Most girls in our culture don’t get practice throwing, and so most tend to throw like a newb – “throwing like a girl” means throwing in an unpracticed manner.

    Whenever people talk about ‘gender differences’ in other skills like math or verbal ability, this study always leaps to my mind.

  19. #19 D. C. Sessions
    September 3, 2009

    Were $DAUGHTER not taking her comps this week, I’d sic her on our MikeH — gender socialization being her subject. Instead, I’ll merely point out one itty-bitty problem that even her dad could grasp:

    The gender [1] skew in mathematics is not uniform between cultures. In fact, the USA seems to have much higher skews than even countries such as India, Turkey, and Iran (!) I leave it to MikeH to explain this fact.

    [1] Not sex — for those who know the difference

  20. #20 Mike H
    September 3, 2009

    The ‘throws like a girl’ bit seems to be entirely due to practice. Most girls in our culture don’t get practice throwing, and so most tend to throw like a newb – “throwing like a girl” means throwing in an unpracticed manner.

    That must explain all those women who go from fast pitch softball to Major League baseball or why the last time a woman made it onto a PGA tour she finished so poorly that she didn’t even make the cut. Must have been Sorenstam’s lack of practice.

    Anyhooo……

    Were $DAUGHTER not taking her comps this week, I’d sic her on our MikeH — gender socialization being her subject.

    Gender soclailization?!? What, is that some kind of joke? Do accredited institutions really give out bullshit degrees like that? If so, at least she will be well prepared for her future at Barnes and Noble.

    .. and no, Larry has revised his comments and learned some stuff about this topic, and has a much better attitude now.

    Summers was lynched and ate pie for the good for his career, nothing more. Some truths are bit too inconvenient.

  21. #21 Irene
    September 3, 2009

    Gender soclailization?!? What, is that some kind of joke? Do accredited institutions really give out bullshit degrees like that? If so, at least she will be well prepared for her future at Barnes and Noble.

    In warfare, you can win a battle by neutralizing the opponent’s main thrust. In a verbal argument, that does not work.

  22. #22 Stephanie Z
    September 3, 2009

    No, Mike, gender socialization. If you want to mock, it’s best to get things right. Helps those claims of superior insight stand up for one or two more nanoseconds. Just about doubles your credibility, in fact.

    Of course, the being generally hateful doesn’t really help counteract the impression that you’re terrified because you’ve stumbled into a world you can’t handle.

  23. #23 Greg Laden
    September 3, 2009

    Adrian [17]:However, Greg makes the mistake of attributing the opinion “gender is nothing more than a social construct” to Mike H, rather than to Mike H’s ill-advised characterisation of Greg.

    That was snark. After that, I kinda lost interest.

  24. #24 D. C. Sessions
    September 3, 2009

    Of course, the being generally hateful doesn’t really help counteract the impression that you’re terrified because you’ve stumbled into a world you can’t handle.

    “Stumble” would imply the ability to walk. That wasn’t my impression, despite my suspicion that MikeH was able to walk within hours of birth.

    And, yes, gender roles are acquired and (gasp!) the way that they’re acquired has some rather serious public-policy implications. Which means that gender sociologists are in demand outside of academia. Not that MikeH is likely to grasp that fact, especially with only one hand free.

  25. #25 Greg Laden
    September 3, 2009

    my suspicion that MikeH was able to walk within hours of birth.

    Somehow this has to be put on a tee-shirt

  26. #26 D. C. Sessions
    September 3, 2009

    Greg, does this mean I’ve used up my one-liner quota for September?

  27. #27 Ray Ingles
    September 3, 2009

    That must explain all those women who go from fast pitch softball to Major League baseball or why the last time a woman made it onto a PGA tour she finished so poorly that she didn’t even make the cut. Must have been Sorenstam’s lack of practice.

    Mike H, I suggest you read this:

    http://scienceblogs.com/notrocketscience/2008/12/why_are_there_so_few_female_chess_grandmasters.php

    “In an elegant new study, he has shown that the performance gap between male and female chess players is caused by nothing more than simple statistics.”

    I would contend that the gap in sports arises from mostly the same reasons. The other factor is for the well-documented average difference in stature and upper-body strength between men and women – but the throwing study I discussed corrected for that. Professional sports doesn’t (and shouldn’t, I’d say).

    Nobody here is disputing that men and women have significant and innate physical differences. However, the chess study above covers another endeavor that, like math, is purely intellectual. Somehow innate intellectual differences between males and females seem to be harder to actually document – and the ones that have been found seem to be relatively insignificant. A difference in means, but the bell curves overlap a lot.

  28. #28 nails
    September 4, 2009

    I doubt Mike H. would be nearly as willing to accept SAT scores as an indication of biologically determined inability for things like not being white or not having money. The patterns are the same and the same kind of studies about performance being reduced after being told that people of color can’t do well academically exist.

    OH YEAH, and math ability vs being american would be another good thing to look into. There is a huge gap between american kids and everyone else, sooo I guess it is because moving to america damages your brain in areas that are mathmatically important, right?

    The lower performance statistics alone are only convincing for someone who has an interest in believing women are inferior in the first place.

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