Of Math and Men

OF MATH AND MEN….Do boys have stronger innate math skills than girls? The Chronicle of Higher Education investigates:

“There may be some innate differences, but we’re so far from hitting that barrier that it’s silly to talk about it,” says Jacquelynne S. Eccles, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor who has followed several groups of students over two decades, tracking how they chose high-school courses, college majors, and then careers.

….Data from [Julian] Stanley’s program, at Johns Hopkins, shows just how strong the cultural factors are in determining math achievement. In the early 1980s, he and [Camilla] Persson Benbow reported a whopping disparity in the numbers of mathematically gifted boys and girls who scored 700 on the math section of the SAT at the age of 13, a distinction achieved by one in 10,000 students. A quarter-century ago, there were 13 boys for every girl at that level. Now the ratio is only 2.8 to 1, a precipitous drop that has not been reported in the news media. “It’s gone way down as women have had an opportunity to take their math earlier,” says Mr. Stanley.

Following on the heels of l’affaire Summers I’ve seen loads of long, serious articles asking the question: are men innately better at math than women? This article is a little better than most of that genre, but I’d still like to see something in the popular press that focuses on a different question: are there unusually large cultural barriers to advancement for women in the areas of math and science? Surely there’s room somewhere for an article that focuses on the research for cultural influences rather than biological ones? I assume it must be fairly voluminous.

Previous post asking the same question here. If someone can point me to a long, well-reported article in the mainstream press that focuses primarily on the rigorous evidence for social and cultural barriers, please leave a comment. It’s certainly possible that I’ve missed one somewhere.

POSTSCRIPT: By the way, the answer to the question at the beginning of the Chronicle article is “all of them.” Just showing off my innate mathematical skills here…..

UPDATE: It’s not the long article I’m looking for, but it turns out the Chronicle piece does have a sidebar called “Vexing Stereotypes” that looks briefly at one piece of evidence about cultural barriers.

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