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Gender Gap Infographic

As we head into the final days of March, I’d like to share with you the following infographic sent to me by a reader. It collects some interesting (and depressing) data on women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) careers.

Created by: Engineering Degree

While I don’t necessarily put a lot of stock into the opening IQ numbers (see here and here for examples of problems with IQ testing), and I’m not sure if the data on course load in the first part is statistically significant, the data in the latter parts is quite compelling. I’ve discussed the psychological component of the gender gap before, but the data in the second section of this infographic provides more evidence to the claim that psychology and cultural influences, rather than biology, is behind the gender gap we see in the sciences.

Of . . . → Read More: Gender Gap Infographic

Female Math Role Models?

I’ve occasionally touched upon the gender gap in mathematics, mostly in response to some recent study that has attempted to explain why mathematics (and the sciences in general) are so predominately male. An article that appeared in Slate last week makes me think it is time, once again, to discuss this topic.

After giving a brief overview of the observed gender gap in science and math careers, writer Shankar Vedantam then discusses the results of some recent experiments out of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst which revealed new features of this gender gap.

In both experiments, researchers (roughly speaking) found correlations between the unconscious attitudes that females in a variety of scientific majors had towards mathematics and the gender of proctors and professors in mathematics. Among the findings (more details can be had by viewing the article):

Given a question posed to the classroom by the professor, the percentage . . . → Read More: Female Math Role Models?

Gender Gap Genesis

Late last year, a study was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences which tried to pin down origins for the gender gap in mathematics education. As I’ve discussed before, the gender gap in math education is shrinking, and has been shown to be less about biology and more about culture – in cultures where gender equality is weaker, the gender gap is stronger. Nevertheless, even in American culture, the gender gap still persists, and this study by Sian Beilock and others has tried to figure out how, if the gender gap is culturally based, it comes about in young students. The original study can be found here, while a discussion of the study that was featured in the news can be found here.

Professor Beilock and her colleagues tried to correlate young students’ math anxiety with the math anxiety of their teachers. In particular, they looked . . . → Read More: Gender Gap Genesis

Math in the News: Is U.S. Culture Crushing Potential Mathletes?

Earlier this month, the New York Times ran an article about the dearth of U.S. students with strong skills in mathematics. While this is not quite a revelation, it is made more timely by the recent release of a study that looked at data from Putnam exams, International Mathematical Olympiads, and data from other programs meant to nurture younger students in mathematics.

This type of data is more powerful than looking at SAT scores, for instance, because exams administered in a mathematics competition are notoriously difficult. There are thousands of students who will score an 800 on the math section of the SAT, and so this test offers no way to distinguish between them. Looking at this other data, however, allows us to gain a much deeper insight into the abilities of students in the U.S. with an aptitude for mathematics.

The data suggests a couple of things. First, contrary . . . → Read More: Math in the News: Is U.S. Culture Crushing Potential Mathletes?

Math in the News: The Gender Gap is Closed for Business

Math made the headlines last Thursday, with an article about a recent study in the journal Science, which discredits the perceived Gender Gap in mathematics. The AP article can be found here – if you can’t bring yourself to read the article, you can also watch the following clip from NBC Nightly News on the same topic.

The AP article offers a more thorough discussion of the study, which examined standardized test scores for more than 7 million American students. Given the breadth of the study, one hopes it will help dispel any lingering notion girls may have that they are some how innately unable to measure up to boys in math. We do, however, have a ways to go before math professor Barbie starts flying off the shelves.

Any news that can help persuade women to enter mathematically demanding fields is good news. Not only because America needs to . . . → Read More: Math in the News: The Gender Gap is Closed for Business