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Oh, Look: Another Study Shows Girls Aren’t Bad at Math

Oh, Look: Another Study Shows Girls Aren’t Bad at Math

It’s no secret that girls are bad at math. Oh wait — nope, that’s a lie.

What does seem to be a secret, though, is that girls are just as good at math as boys are — and now we have yet another study that helps prove the point.

A recent analysis suggests that women who use an alias while taking a math exam, regardless of whether that alias is male or female, perform better than the control group who did not use an alias.

The author of the paper, Shen Zhang of the University of Wisconsin, recruited 110 undergraduate women and 72 undergraduate men to take a 30 question math test.

According to io9:

Prior to the test, and in an effort to instill the stereotype threat, all participants were told that men typically outperform women at math. Some of the volunteers were told to write the test under their real name, but some were told to complete the test under one of four different aliases, either Jacob Tyler, Scott Lyons, Jessica Peterson, or Kaitlyn Woods.

When the results were in, men outperformed the women. Thank you, self-reputational threat.

But women who assumed an alias, whether it be male or female, performed better than the women who did not. And importantly they did just as well as the men.

Weird, right? What’s going on here?

There is this thing called the stereotype threat, which basically means that if you know about a stereotype — like girls are bad at math, for example — you’re likely to conform to that stereotype. It’s a self-fulfilling prophesy.

There is also something called the self-reputational threat, which is what this study is trying to find a way to overcome.

The self-reputational threat is related to the stereotype threat; it’s the fear some women have of fulfilling the stereotype, thus proving that stereotype true.

The researchers concluded that the study’s findings suggest that poor performance by women on math tests can be due to the self-reputational threat. They also suggest some steps that can be taken to mitigate this threat, such as non-name identification procedures for exams.

In case you were wondering, this is far from the only study that says women as a group have the same potential to be mathletes as men.

In 2011, an analysis of huge amounts of data from across the world further established the notion that girls’ low performance in math is related to social and cultural factors, not any biological difference.A 2006 study also showed that the stereotype threat does indeed have an effect on girls’ math scores.

So what to take from this? It seems like if we just stop telling girls that they are bad at math, they will not be bad at math.

Maybe we should start doing that, then.

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Image credit: Flickr

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110 comments

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7:44AM PDT on Sep 11, 2013

silly study. I'll just send them my old report cards and blow their minds, no guy could do better, and yes i WILL brag about it, as long as they keep thinking that studies are required to prove boys and girls are the same

2:01PM PDT on Aug 15, 2013

I personally never liked maths at school:/

5:29AM PDT on Jul 23, 2013

When Albert Einstein was developing his 4 thesis published in 1905, he was married with Mileva Maric, also known as a "woman who did Einstein's math". Mileva Maric-Einstein had the same education as Einstein (in fact they meet at the Zurich Polytechnic where they both studied) and it is hard to imagine that a clerk at the Zurich Patent Office would not talk about physics with his closes peer in science at their kitchen table. It is likely that Mileva proofread his papers and helped with some of the mathematical proofs.

They divorced in 1912. Many historians claim that Einstein's latter work was not so revolutionary, taking this as a proof of Mileva's contribution on 4 scientific papers Einstein published in 1905.

6:24PM PDT on Jul 22, 2013

Of course!

4:24AM PDT on Jul 21, 2013

True!

3:49AM PDT on Jul 18, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

8:53AM PDT on Jul 17, 2013

ty

10:29PM PDT on Jul 16, 2013

i must say that after having worked in the real world for over 32 years, I have never, ever, even once, needed any sort of algebra, calculus or any of that. It was absolutely of no use to me whatsoever. The useful stuff involved basic adding subtracting multiplying and dividing, that's all. To be honest, all the rest of it was a waste of time in the real world. As I near the end of my career, I feel that more time in school should have been spent on classes in ethics, instead of math, because I ran into a real lack of that, which was more of a problem as the years went by, than someone not knowing algebra.

10:17PM PDT on Jul 16, 2013

we aren't bad at math, it just needs to be taught in a different way. I had occasion to do some math upgrading, along with a roomful of other adults, maybe half from other countries, and I discovered from them that math is taught differently where they were from. They would work through a problem differently to get the same answer. Whatever they were doing mathematically seemed more straightforward than the convoluted way we were taught when I was in grade school. No wonder I hated math so much.

7:42PM PDT on Jul 16, 2013

ty

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