Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Gender Differences Persist in Many Subjects

ScienceDaily (July 27, 2008) — "We've all heard it. Many of us in fact believe it. Girls just aren't as good at math as boys.  

But is it true? After sifting through mountains of data - including SAT results and math scores from 7 million students who were tested in accordance with the No Child Left Behind Act - a team of scientists says the answer is no. Whether they looked at average performance, the scores of the most gifted children or students' ability to solve complex math problems, girls measured up to boys."

"There just aren't gender differences anymore in math performance," says University of Wisconsin-Madison psychology professor Janet Hyde, the study's leader. "So parents and teachers need to revise their thoughts about this."

 Reality Check:


SubjectYearMales: Grade 12   Females: Grade 12M-F DifferenceProb.
Math200915515230.0053
Science200915114920.0061
Reading2009218224-60.0000
Writing2007144162-180.0000
Economics200615214840.0071

MP: The national average test scores by gender in the table above for students in grade 12 show that there are still statistically significant differences in performance on standardized tests in math, science, reading, writing and economics, according to U.S. Department of Education data available here.  For standardized tests in math, science and economics, boys score significantly higher on average than girls in grade 12, and for reading and writing tests, girls score significantly higher than boys (all at a 1% level of statistical significance or higher). 


So there are gender differences in not only math performance, but also for science, reading, writing and economics, and these differences persist over time.  Perhaps parents, teachers and everybody else should just revise their thoughts about this and accept the reality that there are gender differences in cognitive abilities.  Is that so terribly bad that girls might be naturally better at reading and writing and boys are naturally better at math and science? 

Update: The chart below displays average SAT math test scores by gender from 1972 to 2011, showing a persistent and significant male advantage in average math performance.  Were these results part of the "mountains of data - including SAT results" that Janet Hyde's team looked at to arrive at their conclusion that "there just aren't gender differences in math performance?"




14 Comments:

At 3/08/2011 2:50 PM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

"Is that so terribly bad that girls are better at reading and writing and boys are better at math and science?"

What about the purpose of government in pounding square pegs into round holes?

 
At 3/08/2011 3:21 PM, Blogger Buddy R Pacifico said...

Q: "Is that so terribly bad that girls might be naturally better at reading and writing and boys are naturally better at math and science?"

A: No. Vive la differance.

 
At 3/08/2011 3:23 PM, Blogger Rand said...

But is it true? After sifting through mountains of data - including SAT results and math scores from 7 million students who were tested in accordance with the No Child Left Behind Act - a team of scientists says the answer is no. Whether they looked at average performance, the scores of the most gifted children or students' ability to solve complex math problems, girls measured up to boys."

Probably the same team of scientists that ginned up the anthropogenic global warming data.

 
At 3/08/2011 3:43 PM, Blogger al fin said...

There are two ways for psychologists to eliminate the gender gap:

1. Do all the comparison testing prior to puberty or in the very early stages of puberty, before brain changes occur.

2. Perform a useful intervention to improve girls' scores, while omitting the intervention in the boys' group. So the girls receiving special training get better, and score closer to the boys who did not receive the special training.

Another trick is to look at the middle of the curves, and remark how well girls (women) do there, omitting comparisons at the higher end of the curves.

More boy idiots and more boy geniuses, than girls. More girls in the middle. Even in language skills, when you push the curves to the top, those top males perform better generally than top females.

 
At 3/08/2011 4:40 PM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

al fin, rather than turning a potentially great female novelist into a mediocre mathematician or a potentially great male mathematician into a mediocre novelist to achieve equality, why don't we allow males and females equal access to education and allow them to choose?

 
At 3/08/2011 5:30 PM, Blogger Dr. T said...

"...Janet Hyde's team... [concluded] that "there just aren't gender differences in math performance..."

My assumption is that the lead author of the paper is among those women who do poorest at mathematics and statistics.

-------------
@al fin: "... There are two ways for psychologists to eliminate the gender gap:

1. Do all the comparison testing prior to puberty or in the very early stages of puberty, before brain changes occur."

Studies indicate that sex-based differences in brains occur mostly in utero and during the earliest years of childhood. Its the exposure to higher levels of testosterone during early brain development that create most of the differences between the brains of boys and girls. The increased burst of testosterone in pubertal boys has no significant affect on sex-based differences in mental abilities because the brain completed its development by age 5.

Most of the studies that "prove" lack of sex effect on mental abilities compare the means or medians only and avoid comparing deciles or quintiles. In studies that looked at quintiles, the math scores of the top fifth of boys significantly exceeded those of the top fifth of girls. The language-related scores of the top fifth of girls significantly exceeded those of boys.

I cannot understand why this topic is so sensitive or why so many pseudoscientists try to prove that "it just ain't so."

 
At 3/08/2011 7:19 PM, Blogger Marko said...

I think you are thinking of Sex Differences, not gender differences. People have sex, words have gender.

Yes, language is changing, but I don't have to like it.

 
At 3/08/2011 8:22 PM, Blogger asdf said...

"Great female novelist"

hahahahaha. good one.

 
At 3/08/2011 10:21 PM, Blogger larry said...

So, what?

 
At 3/09/2011 4:32 AM, Blogger al fin said...

"Dr T" asserts: "The increased burst of testosterone in pubertal boys has no significant affect on sex-based differences in mental abilities because the brain completed its development by age 5."

Indeed? And yet studies comparing male and female math ability over time demonstrate exactly the opposite.

The next thing you will say is that there is no such thing as the "teenage brain."

Clearly since the brain is completely developed by age 5, drinking and voting ages must be adjusted radically downward as well.

Society must come to terms with its new toddler overlords, and quickly!

 
At 3/09/2011 11:21 AM, Blogger Bill said...

I can't resist - time for everyone to view Mark's Xtranormal video on gender differences on the SAT.

http://mjperry.blogspot.com/2010/12/gender-differences-on-sat-test.html

 
At 3/09/2011 6:11 PM, Blogger Dr. T said...

@al fin: "... And yet studies comparing male and female math ability over time demonstrate exactly the opposite."

You are confused. The testosterone-related brain changes that cause differences between males and females occur during fetal development and early childhood, as I stated. However, children are not exposed to advanced mathematics until they are older. As the math gets more difficult, the ability differences between boys and girls become more apparent. There is no contradiction.

 
At 3/10/2011 3:00 PM, Blogger randian said...

I'd like to see the trend line in absolute scores. I've seen some public schools tout how great they are because they supposedly narrowed the equally persistent gap in black/white test scores. Unfortunately, raising the test scores of blacks isn't the only way to narrow the gap. The other is to lower, by hook or by crook, the test scores of whites.

 
At 3/10/2011 11:29 PM, OpenID Sprewell said...

While I do think it is worthwhile to some extent to highlight that there are possible gender or racial differences like this, these testing differences are way overblown. First of all, most people have essentially no understanding of statistics- take a bow, idiot teachers- so if one takes these statistical distributions and makes statements like "the average math score is higher for boys" or "the top quintile of women do better on writing tests", the average person interprets that as "all boys are better at math than all girls and all girls are better at writing than all boys." This is because they have no conception of statistical distributions like the bell curve. So talking about fine distinctions like this is often lost on most people, which is why Hyde and others who're against these distinctions assert that they don't exist, because they feel the data will be abused. I think Hyde and her ilk are wrong to lie about it, but they're right that it can be abused.

Second, such testing differences are way overblown as a factor in how well people actually do in life, as much more important than innate ability, ie their hardware, is what mental model of the world that people adopt, ie their software. You can give me a crappy, old computer but I could put special software on it that will produce better results than the average person could produce from the shitty software on their brand new computer. Similarly, we all know "smart" people who cling to manifestly dumb ideas, like all the professors who are good in their field but espouse manifestly stupid, leftie economic ideas. Most people do well to the extent they learn about and embrace good ideas, like embracing market-oriented practices or staying out of areas they don't understand, not because of their innate capabilities. So yes, let's research those innate capabilities and figure out what they are, but it's such a joke to make much of that research when our education system is so catastrophically broken that most people are being programmed with horribly bad "software."

 

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