Debunking Myths about Gender and Mathematics Performance

January 19, 2012

Debunking Myths about Gender and Mathematics Performance (PDF)
Source: Notices of the American Mathematical Society

In summary, we conclude that gender equity and other sociocultural factors, not national income, school type, or religion per se, are the primary determinants of mathematics performance at all levels for both boys and girls. Our findings are consistent with the gender stratified hypothesis, but not with the greater male variability, gap due to inequity, single-gender classroom, or Muslim culture hypotheses. At the individual level, this conclusion suggests that well-educated women who earn a good income are much better positioned than are poorly educated women who earn little or no money to ensure that the educational needs of their children of either gender with regard to learning mathematics are well met. It is fully consistent with socioeconomic status of the home environment being a primary determinant for success of children in school. At the national level, the United States ranked only thirty-first in mean mathematics performance out of the sixty-five countries that participated in the 2009 PISA. Eliminating gender discrimination in pay and employment opportunities could be part of a win-win formula for producing an adequate supply of future workers with high-level competence in mathematics. Wealthy countries that fail to provide gender equity in employment are at risk of producing too few citizens of either gender with the skills necessary to compete successfully in a knowledge-based economy driven by science and technology.

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