July 29, 2008

Girls Do As Well As Boys in Math / Study Indicates No Scoring Gap in Grades Second Through 11th

In the largest study of its kind, girls measured up to boys in math in every grade, from second through 11th. The research was released yesterday in the journal Science. Parents and teachers persist in thinking boys are better at math, said Janet Hyde, the University of Wisconsin at Madison researcher who led the study.

That's changing.

Women now are earning 48 percent of undergraduate college degrees in math; they still lag far behind in physics and engineering.

But in primary and secondary school, girls have caught up, with researchers attributing that advance to increasing numbers of girls taking advanced math classes such as calculus.

Hyde and her colleagues looked at annual math tests required by the No Child Left Behind education law in 2002. Ten states provided enough statistical information to review test scores by gender, allowing researchers to compare the performances of more than 7 million children.

The researchers found no difference in the scores of boys and girls - not even in high school. Studies 20 years ago showed girls and boys did equally well on math in elementary school but that girls fell behind in high school.

Joy Lee, a rising senior at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Va., says she always felt confident about math but remembers how it felt to walk into a science class full of boys.

"Maybe I was a little bit apprehensive about being the only girl, but that didn't last for very long," said Lee, president of a school club that tries to get girls interested in science and technology, along with engineering and math.

Still, while there are fewer women in science and technology, there are more women in college overall.

For the Class of 2007, the latest figures available, boys scored an average of 533 on the math section of the SAT, compared with 499 for girls.

On the ACT, another test on which girls lag slightly, the gender gap disappeared in Colorado and Illinois once state officials required all students to take the test.

Originally published by The Associated Press.

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