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Math Adds Up for Girls, Not Boys

August 5, 2008

The following editorial appeared in the Dallas Morning News on Monday, Aug. 4:

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If you still think girls aren’t as good at math as boys, it’s time to think again.

According to a study recently published in Science journal, girls and boys, on average, scored roughly the same on statewide math tests, largely because most of the boys who didn’t score extremely well instead failed miserably. Put another way, girls tended to score in the middle rather than at either extreme.

Researchers say these trends have been under way for years, but they aren’t sure how to interpret the findings. Is it good that girls today are better at math than their counterparts were a couple of decades ago? Absolutely. But shouldn’t it be troubling that a large number of boys are bombing these tests?

Clearly, math mentoring programs and other efforts to encourage girls are paying off. This may be evidence of the same trend that shows more girls are going to college than boys and more boys than girls are dropping out of high school.

Girls are progressing. The flip side is that boys are falling back. At the college level, women earn the majority of bachelor’s degrees in business and biological sciences and are entering the math and engineering fields in greater numbers than boys.

Some experts theorize that educators may not be reaching boys at an early age, which means that, as was the case with girls decades ago, ambition dies early. A second theory is that many young men opt for quick paychecks in low-skill jobs instead of continuing their education.

Educational achievement hinges on both opportunities and high aspirations. This generation of girls seems to understand this connection better than boys do. Both need nurturing support and commitment to develop the necessary skills _ and desire. That work must begin at an early age and be sustained with continual reinforcement.

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(c) 2008, The Dallas Morning News.

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