School & District Management

Researchers Probe ‘Myths’ Around Math Gender Gap

By Sarah D. Sparks — December 12, 2011 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Comparisons of recent international test data find no overall achievement gap between boys and girls in math, and gaps that show up in specific countries undermine the evidence for several of the hypothesized causes of a sex-based math achievement gap, according to a new analysis in the Notices of the American Mathematical Society.

Jonathan Kane, math and computer science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, and Janet Mertz, oncology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, studied the math scores of 4th and 8th grade students on the 2003 and 2007 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, or TIMSS, and the 2003 Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, tests. The sample covered hundreds of thousands of students in dozens of countries worldwide.

The researchers found that when scores were compared across countries, there was no statistically significant achievement gap overall between mean scores of boys and girls in 4th or 8th grade in math in either 2003 or 2007.

Previous studies have suggested that boys have a higher overall variation in math performance—that is, boys are more likely than girls to be either the best or the worst in math performance. Yet Kane and Mertz did not find more variety in boys’ scores overall than in girls; while boys had more varied scores in the United States, Australia and Hungary, girls had more varied distribution in Tunisia, and the Czech Republic had identical score distribution for both sexes. The researchers found significant differences in the range of scores from country to country, which they suggested may point to differences in school experiences rather than sex differences as an underlying cause of math achievement gaps.

Likewise, the researchers found no evidence that co-educational schools led to gender gaps. In an analysis of 8th-grade students from the 17 countries with 17 percent or more of students in single-sex schools, Kane and Mertz found no consistent connections between math performance gaps and what kind of school a child attended. They did, however, find that countries with better gender equity had higher math performance for boys and girls alike.

“We found that boys as well as girls tend to do better in math when raised in countries where females have better equality, and that’s both new and important,” Kane said in a statement on the study. “It makes sense that when women are well educated and earn a good income, the math scores of their children of both genders benefit.”

A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
What’s Next for Teaching and Learning? Key Trends for the New School Year
The past 18 months changed the face of education forever, leaving teachers, students, and families to adapt to unprecedented challenges in teaching and learning. As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management 10 Ways to Tackle Education's Urgent Challenges
As the school year gets underway, we ask hard questions about education’s biggest challenges and offer some solutions.
2 min read
Conceptual Image of schools preparing for the pandemic
Pep Montserrat for Education Week
School & District Management Reported Essay Principals Need Social-Emotional Support, Too
By overlooking the well-being of their school leaders, districts could limit how much their schools can flourish.
7 min read
Conceptual Illustration
Pep Montserrat for Education Week
School & District Management From Our Research Center Educator Stress, Anti-Racism, and Pandemic Response: How You're Feeling
A new nationally representative survey offers key takeaways from teachers, principals, and district leaders.
EdWeek Research Center
1 min read
2021 BI COVER no text DATA crop
Pep Montserrat for Education Week
School & District Management Download 8 Tips for Building a Digital Learning Plan That Conquers Chaos
Craft flexible strategies, encourage experimentation with new instructional models, and regularly solicit feedback.
1 min read
onsr edtech tips
Getty