MATH AND GIRLS….Interesting article from the front page of yesterday’s Wall St. Journal:

In her 10th-grade math class, Frankie Teague dimmed the lights, switched on soothing music and handed each student a white board and a marker. Then she projected an arithmetic problem onto a screen at the front of the room.

“As soon as you get the answer, hold up your board,” she said, setting off a round of squeaky scribbling. The simple step of having students hold up their work, instead of raising their hands or shouting out the answer, gives a leg up to a group of pupils who have long lagged in math classes–girls.

Ms. Teague’s teaching methods are part of broad changes in how math is taught in England’s classrooms. Starting in the late 1980s, England’s education department worried that lessons relied too heavily on teachers lecturing and students memorizing. So it began promoting changes in teaching methods, textbooks and testing in both state-funded and private schools. The changes were designed to help all students, but educators have noticed a surprising side effect: Girls are closing a decades-old gender gap–and by many measures outscoring the boys.

Unfortunately, the article is only available to subscribers. So I’ll just describe the cool graph that shows the math scores of boys and girls moving along parallel tracks (with girls far behind) until the new math program came along, at which point the girls’ scores shot up and are now slightly ahead of boys’. More evidence to combat the idea of innate aptitude. And yet another illustration of why something needs to be done about the way kids offer opinions and answer questions in classrooms.

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Amy Sullivan is a Chicago-based journalist who has written about religion, politics, and culture as a senior editor for Time, National Journal, and Yahoo. She was an editor at the Washington Monthly from 2004 to 2006.