Although the question of whether there is a gender difference in math seems like a simple one, the answer is complicated. Overall there are only small differences in boys’ and girls’ math performance; those differences depend on the age and skill level of the student, what type of math they are attempting and how big of a dissimilarity is needed to say that boys’ and girls’ math performance is truly different.
In preschool and elementary school boys and girls generally perform similarly on math tests. Later in school, in high school and college, more consistent differences start to emerge. In addition, gender differences are often larger among higher-performing students but not necessarily for lower- or average-performing ones. Within this specific group of higher-performing math students, boys tend to perform better. Similarly, when studies do find gender differences among elementary school children, they find these start to appear for higher-performing students earlier in schooling than they do for lower- and average-performing ones.
Whether a gender difference is found also depends on what type of math the kids are doing. In general, boys tend to outperform girls on tests that are less related to what is taught in schools (like the SAT math test, for example) whereas there tend to be minimal gender differences on statewide standards-based math tests, which are more tied to what’s taught in schools. When it comes to grades in school, which are even more closely tied to the curriculum, girls often outperform boys...
To read the full article by Colleen Ganley, visit The Scientific American.