September 16, 2010

Early Intervention Closes Math/Science Gender Gap

(Ivanhoe Newswire) "“ The gender difference in spatial abilities, which emerges very early in development, may be a source of the lag in girls' achievement in math and science.

A new study describes an intervention that effectively eliminates the gender gap in spatial abilities. While the research doesn't yet show that the intervention leads to better achievement in science, math, and engineering for girls, this is a promising direction for supporting girls' achievement and eventual contributions in these areas.

"Given the value of good spatial skills in math and science, this study tells us that it's possible to implement intervention programs and develop curricula aimed at overcoming gender differences that many believe have a biological contribution," David Tzuriel, professor of psychology and education at Bar Ilan University in Israel, was quoted as saying. "We still need to see if eliminating the gender gap in spatial relations results in eliminating the gap in math and science achievement. But this is a critical first step."

Tzuriel and a colleague studied more than 100 first graders, placing about half of them in a training program that focused on expanding working memory, perceiving spatial information from a holistic point of view rather than based on particular details, and thinking about spatial geometric pictures from different points of view. The other children were placed in a control group that took part in a substitute training program.
After eight weekly sessions, initial gender differences in spatial ability among those in the first group disappeared.

"Training that starts early can prevent gender differences in spatial abilities," said Tzuriel, "and can provide equal opportunities for girls to excel in skills that are required for success in scientific domains."

SOURCE:  Child Development, September/October 2010.