culture, gender and math (and reading)

about recent research:

in The Economist
“Vital statistics: Girls are becoming as good as boys at mathematics, and are still better at reading” [h/t /etc list]

ABC News story
“Study: Girls in Sexist Societies Worse at Math – Countries with Higher Gender Equality Produce Girls Who Are Better at Math”

the original study in Science Magazine: “Diversity: Culture, Gender, and Math” [restricted access] & Supporting Online Material

“The existence (1), degree (2), and origin (3, 4) of a gender gap (difference between girls’ and boys’ scores) in mathematics are highly debated. Biologically based explanations for the gap rely on evidence that men perform better in spatial tests, whereas women do better in verbal recall ones (1, 5, 6). However, the performance differences are small, and their link with math test performance is tenuous (7). By contrast, social conditioning and gender-biased environments can have very large effects on test performance (8).

To assess the relative importance of biological and cultural explanations, we studied gender differences in test performance across countries (9). Cultural inequalities range widely across countries (10), whereas results from cognitive tests do not (6). We used data from the 2003 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) that reports on 276,165 15-year-old students from 40 countries who took identical tests in mathematics and reading (11, 12). The tests were designed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to be free of cultural biases. They are sufficiently challenging that only 0.6% of the U.S. students tested perform at the 99th percentile of the world distribution.”


Science 30 May 2008:
Vol. 320. no. 5880, pp. 1164 – 1165
DOI: 10.1126/science.1154094

below the fold, some commentary in romanian (english quotes)
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