Culture, Gender, and Math

By Danielle Woods — May 30, 2008 1 min read
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In the continued search for solutions to the gender gap in math achievement, researchers have found that cultural factors may play an important part in explaining why boys do better in math, the Baltimore Sun reports.

Using 2003 results from an international assessment program and gender equality profiles, scientists compared the math and reading scores of thousands of 15-year olds in 40 countries. Girls generally scored lower in math but scored higher in countries (such as Norway and Iceland) with greater gender equality, where women had greater economic and political opportunities. The scores of U.S. girls were in the middle range.

The study, published in the journal Science, highlights the importance of cultural attitudes in influencing students’ school courses and career paths, especially since girls are often discouraged from excelling in math, experts say.

But some educators also note more girls in the U.S. today are taking challenging courses and choosing careers in math. They attribute this growing trend to changing economic and social conditions. “I think it’s society today,” says Victoria Stevenson, a math department head at an all-girl high school. “There’s a look toward technology as being key and more jobs are available to women in engineering and technology.”

A version of this news article first appeared in the Web Watch blog.