Narrowing of math gender gap.
Article Type: Brief article
Subject: Female-male relations (Research)
Females (Psychological aspects)
Mathematics (Psychological aspects)
Pub Date: 09/22/2009
Publication: Name: Annals of the American Psychotherapy Association Publisher: American Psychotherapy Association Audience: Academic; Professional Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Psychology and mental health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2009 American Psychotherapy Association ISSN: 1535-4075
Issue: Date: Fall, 2009 Source Volume: 12 Source Issue: 3
Topic: Event Code: 310 Science & research
Product: Product Code: 8524200 Mathematics NAICS Code: 54171 Research and Development in the Physical, Engineering, and Life Sciences
Geographic: Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States
Accession Number: 208639907

It has long been believed that females are inherently less adept than males when it comes to mathematics, primarily at the highest levels of the subject. For more than a century, this disparity was blamed on biology; only recently have researchers come to realize it is based strongly on culture.

Jane Mertz, a UW-Madison professor of oncology, explains the misconception: "It's not an innate difference in math ability between males and females. There are countries where the gender disparity in math performance doesn't exist at either the average or gifted levels. These tend to be the same countries that have the greatest gender equality."

Mertz and Janet Hyde, a UW-Madison professor of psychology, found that gender differences in math performance do not exist in the general population, gender differences do not exist among the mathematically talented, and females can possess profound mathematical talent. On the standardized math tests required of all students, girls at all grade levels now perform on par with boys. There has long been a gap between genders among the mathematically talented, but that gap is narrowing and will likely continue to close.

"If you provide females with more educational opportunities and more job opportunities in fields that require advanced knowledge of math, you're going to find more women learning and performing very well in mathematics," says Mertz.

University of Wisconsin-Madison. (2009, June 2). Culture, not biology, underpins math gender gap. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 3, 2009, from

MCT Illustration by Andrew Lucas/The Orange County Register
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