Are Boys Really Better at Maths? 5 Myths Debunked

by Anne B. Robinson

Society has been hellbent for decades that boys generally perform better than girls. Debunking this myth has been one of the toughest challenges for most researchers due to the biased nature of most off-the-shelf statistics one could get on the subject based on existing performance records.

But new research tells a different story.

Boys and girls are equally abled in math. Moreover, the existing performance discrepancies seen in schools and the STEM industry boil down to the path society has led most girls interested in math and STEM.

1. More Boys Choose Math Than Girls

Existing numbers favor boys more than girls when it comes to selecting math as a course or career subject. These numbers have puzzled researchers for decades, with one study seeking to understand if fewer girls choose math over boys because of the gender’s perceived general lack of math coherence.

Well, that is not the true story. Fewer girls choose math not because of their inferior mathematical abilities but rather the general notion society has over the superiority of boys in the subject. More girls tend to switch their career choices from STEM by the time they’re going to high school or college.

2. Boys Have a “Math Brain”

One of the most popular myths behind this notion is that boys are born with a “math brain.” On the other hand, girls are better at verbal skills. However, research shows no cognitive differences biologically between boys and girls.

Thus, suggesting boys have a “math brain” is untrue. This misconception has been dubbed as one of the most self-destructive in America.

3. There’s a Gendered Math Gap in Elementary School

Yes, a gendered math gap exists in elementary school. But it has little to do with girls’ math abilities compared to boys. Research shows that this gendered math gap in elementary school is mostly among boys from higher-income, predominantly white families.

The numbers reverse when looking at lower-income, predominantly black areas where this research showed that girls outperform boys in math.

4. Fewer Girls Take STEM Courses in University

One of the arguments used to propagate the myth that boys are better than girls at math is the statistical data showing more boys doing STEM courses in universities and colleges than girls.

The representation in STEM for girls is as recorded because of the discouragement girls have historically received from taking STEM subjects. There are also professions in the STEM field with major gender gaps, with statistics showing that nearly half of women working in scientific fields quit their jobs or work part-time after having a child.

5. Boys Have Superior Spatial Awareness

Mounting evidence shows that boys’ current statistical dominance in math has little to do with their mythical superior spatial awareness. Research shows that social conditioning is the major contributing factor to the difference in math performance.

This data came from tests equally performed on boys and girls where both genders performed equally in various math tests.

In Summary

There is enough mounting evidence to rest the myth and argument that boys are better at math than girls. However, there’s a lot of work required to balance the current statistical anomaly. We can start by providing equal access to opportunities for both genders, such as access to tuition and online study resources.

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