Girls have caught up with boys in math scores, conclude a team of Wisconsin and Berkeley researchers in an article in the July 25 issue of Science. Girls now are as likely as boys to take high-level math classes — and it shows. Not only are scores the same through high school, women now earn 48 percent of bachelor’s degrees in math.
Among students with the highest test scores, the team did find that white boys outnumbered white girls by about two to one. Among Asians, however, that result was nearly reversed. (Wisconsin’s Janet) Hyde says that suggests that cultural and social factors, not gender alone, influence how well students perform on tests.
Researchers had difficult measuring ability to solve complex problems because many state tests asked few or no complex questions.
“The tests we are currently using are really not asking students to perform the types of tasks they are likely to encounter in the workforce,” (Berkeley’s Marcia) Linn said. The lack of complex problems on assessment tests “doesn’t motivate teachers or textbook developers to create material that challenges students, and it sends the wrong message to schools with regard to what should be emphasized in math courses.”
While males continue to outscore females on the math SAT, that’s skewed by the fact that a larger percentage of female students take the test.
Female students have stronger reading and writing skills, equal math skills and higher college aspirations. The males aren’t keeping up. At Why Boys Fail, Richard Whitmire’s new blog, he wonders if the shift toward word problems has helped girls and made math harder for boys.