People keep saying it and the fact of the matter remains; it’s said that boys are perceived to be better at maths than girls. However, a recent study by Dr. Gijsbert Stoet, a psychologist at Leeds University, has challenged this theory and it seems previous research that merely served as a testament to the fact that boys are better at maths than girls is interestingly now being questioned.
It all relates to stereotyping, something which we often take for granted when it comes to men and women and life choices. Recent studies have shown that the reasons boys are perceived to be better at maths than girls is due to the fact more boys choose to apply their maths knowledge in more relevant job roles when they grow up. It’s clear that men and women have different interests from an early age and this ultimately influences their career choices. But as Dr. Gijsbert Stoet highlights, we need more girls choosing to enter industries where applied knowledge of maths, physics and engineering amongst others can be utilised. To this day, roles such as these are still very much geared towards males, and women tend to choose more creative subjects instead.
So how do we change this perception?
It’s going to have to start from an early age. Perhaps getting girls and boys dabbling with a range of subjects will mean that jobs like engineering aren’t only geared to males when they grow up. Observations have been made that there is no real gender gap, it’s merely early learning that shapes the way our children are taught to think and behave based on their sex. Little girls were once synonymous with Barbie dolls, but the gender lines are gradually blurring, and who knows, in 10 years’ time,things could be different when it comes to subject learning and which sex chooses to do what after they graduate. Maths is a key skill required for a range of roles when children grow up, but just because girls and boys have different interests when they are younger doesn’t mean they don’t share equal applied knowledge of a subject like maths when their job role requires them to do so. Girls, for example, are known for being more methodical and creatively minded than boys, but such stereotypes do little to shorten the gap between gender and performance. If we can get girls and boys doing similar subjects from an early age and placing more weight and importance on having dual roles, then more girls will be interested in physics, maths and science and more boys will be interested in the creative subjects such as art and languages.
When it comes to learning maths, it’s hard to say that one gender is better than the other at this subject, it’s just what we are led to believe with the ongoing stereotypes which have become second nature. It’s time to think outside the box.
This guest post was written by Michael Smith from iTutorMaths – the UK’s leading online maths tutor service.