No Such Thing as a Math Person

She said the popular idea that boys and girls learn differently is “not supported by the neuroscientific literature.”

“Most of the things that parents and kids believe about math learning are wrong,” said Dr. Boaler, who is the co-founder of Youcubed, a website that argues for a revolution in math teaching for all children, and offers resources to teachers, students and parents. In fact, maybe what everyone needs — girls and boys both — is a different kind of math teaching, with much less emphasis on timed tests, and more attention to teaching math as a visual subject, and as a place for creativity.

“The lovely thing is when you change math education and make it more about deep conceptual understanding, the gender differences disappear,” Dr. Boaler said. “Boys and girls both do well.”

Sexism and racism, as we know, have had deep affections on our social life. One of our important issues in contemporary social life is math teaching at schools. People generally think boys learn math better than girls. The article is about to  disprove this cliche, and this idea that someone may have got a “math mind” has been disproved too. I invite you to read the article from first word to the last one:

No Such Thing as a Math Person

By Perri Klass, M.d. May 15, 2017

 

When I wrote about fending off math anxiety last month I learned both from the experts I interviewed and from people to whom I happened to mention the topic that math anxiety is found across all lines of gender, ethnicity and educational background. There are plenty of men and women out there, including the highly educated and the professionally aggressive (professors and corporate lawyers, say), who proudly — or shamefacedly — wave the math anxiety flag. Oh yes, that’s me, I don’t have a math brain — though the whole idea of a math brain is frowned on by those who study this topic.

There is a general assumption that women are affected more than men, and that math and math anxiety contribute to the barriers that keep women underrepresented in the STEM fields. In my own familial experiment, I have two sons and a daughter, and though everyone managed O.K. in math, the daughter was, without question, the math kid — though the very idea of “math kids” is considered part of the problem.

My daughter, who majored in math in college, feels that the key is that she attended an all-girls school from fifth grade through 12th grade, and isn’t sure she would have stayed with math if she’d gone to a coed school. I believe her — though the research literature doesn’t necessarily support her, from a statistical point of view.

That’s one of the interesting things about trying to think about girls and math: It involves questioning some of your assumptions about how children learn, and about what makes some topics harder or less accessible to lots of people. And then trying to look at research that tells you that your own perceptions and experience may not be reliable.

 

As far as math anxiety, “many many more girls and women than men are anxious,” said Jo Boaler, a professor of mathematics education at Stanford, “and we know anxiety holds people back — there are still messages out there that math is for boys and not for girls.” Some of the anxiety, she said, may be transmitted by elementary school teachers, who are likely to be female, and are often themselves anxious about math. “We know that girls identify with their elementary teachers,” she said, and are more likely than boys to be affected by the teacher’s math anxiety, if it is present, contributing to what she called “the cycle by which this continues.”

Sian Beilock, a professor of psychology at the University of Chicago, pointed to the pressure created by the stereotype that girls aren’t good at math. “They come in feeling pressure that could affect their performance,” she said. “That can rob people of the cognitive horsepower they would have to perform at their best.” And this can be worst for the best students, she said. “Girls who come in with the most ability to work at a high level are most impacted.”

Andrei Cimpian, an associate professor of psychology at New York University who studies children’s ideas on gender and ability, said that there is lots of variability in the distribution of men and women across fields in the sciences, social sciences and humanities. One key, he said, is whether it is perceived that in order to work in a certain field, a person needs to be brilliant, to have, even, a spark of genius. “When we surveyed academics across disciplines, in fields whose members said, yes, there is something innate, inborn, required for success,” he said, “it was particularly in those fields where we saw women underrepresented, also African-Americans.”

For math through high school, “there isn’t anything in the curriculum that any typically developing child shouldn’t be able to grasp,” he said. “The minute we start talking about who the brilliant ones are, it’s very easy to go from individual differences to group differences.”

 

And what about this whole idea of math brain and math kid? “Metaphors like math brain can create their own reality,” Dr. Cimpian warned. “We all fall on a certain continuum,” he said.

Dr. Boaler, the author of the book “Mathematical Mindsets,” said: “The message to all kids, girls and boys, is there’s no such thing as a math person.”

And what about my daughter’s belief that she owes a lot to being in math classes with no boys in them? Erin Pahlke, an assistant professor of psychology at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash., said, “often the girls in the single-sex schools have higher math achievement, better attitudes, lower levels of math anxiety, they often have better hopes for the future of wanting to take higher level math,” she said. “You say, this is incredible, single-sex schooling is the answer!”

But she was the first author of a 2014 meta-analysis representing the testing of 1.6 million students from 21 countries that found that among the high quality studies, the differences could be explained by looking at such factors as the different socioeconomic status of those choosing single-sex education, and at the pretest scores before the girls entered the single-sex schools as well as measures of school quality and resources.

Dr. Pahlke said that people tell her all the time, “my daughter or my niece went to a single-sex school and it was incredible — I would say to them, yes, I agree, you do see that, but the question is whether or not it’s due to the single-sex environment.” Instead, she said, “it’s due to being around girls who came in with higher math scores, or teacher quality differences, that’s what the research suggests.”

She said the popular idea that boys and girls learn differently is “not supported by the neuroscientific literature.”

“Most of the things that parents and kids believe about math learning are wrong,” said Dr. Boaler, who is the co-founder of Youcubed, a website that argues for a revolution in math teaching for all children, and offers resources to teachers, students and parents. In fact, maybe what everyone needs — girls and boys both — is a different kind of math teaching, with much less emphasis on timed tests, and more attention to teaching math as a visual subject, and as a place for creativity.

“The lovely thing is when you change math education and make it more about deep conceptual understanding, the gender differences disappear,” Dr. Boaler said. “Boys and girls both do well.”

Reference: https://www.nytimes.com

Photo Story: Fifth-graders Shoaa Khan, left, and Briana Berreondo work through a math problem together during class at P.S. 165 in Morningside Heights.CreditKarsten Moran for The New York Times

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Where Boys Outperform Girls in Math: Rich, White and Suburban Districts

At this article you will read the result of a research studying math grades in both girls and boys depend on color of skin, income of family and the district that family live parameters. the result is interesting.

Where Boys Outperform Girls in Math: Rich, White and Suburban Districts

Make Your Daughter Practice Math. She’ll Thank You Later.

“Unfortunately, thinking you’re not very good at something can be a quick path to disliking and avoiding it, even if you do have natural ability. You can begin to avoid practicing it, because to your mind, that practice is more painful than learning what comes more easily. Not practicing, in turn, transforms what started out as a mere aversion into a genuine lack of competence.” 

Nobody can deny the girls’ abilities in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). The abilities of women have been proven several times during the history of human kind’s civilization, but we have being accepted them in all parts of the society since only few decades so far. We still have a long way to reach the equality. I invite you to read this article from NY Times:

Make Your Daughter Practice Math. She’ll Thank You Later.

The way we teach math in America hurts all students, but it may be hurting girls the most.

By Barbara Oakley
Ms. Oakley is an engineering professor and the author of a book on learning.

Aug. 7, 2018

For parents who want to encourage their daughters in STEM subjects, it’s crucial to remember this: Math is the sine qua non.

You and your daughter can have fun throwing eggs off a building and making papier-mâché volcanoes, but the only way to create a full set of options for her in STEM is to ensure she has a solid foundation in math. Math is the language of science, engineering and technology. And like any language, it is best acquired through lengthy, in-depth practice.

But for girls, this can be trickier than it looks. This is because many girls can have a special advantage over boys — an advantage that can steer them away from this all-important building block. A large body of research has revealed that boys and girls have, on average, similar abilities in math. But girls have a consistent advantage in reading and writing and are often relatively better at these than they are at math, even though their math skills are as good as the boys’. The consequence? A typical little boy can think he’s better at math than language arts. But a typical little girl can think she’s better at language arts than math. As a result, when she sits down to do math, she might be more likely to say, “I’m not that good at this!” She actually is just as good (on average) as a boy at the math — it’s just that she’s even better at language arts. Of course, it’s hard to know what’s taking place in the minds of babes. But studies revealing developmental differences between boys’ versus girls’ verbal abilities alongside developmental similarities in boys’ and girls’ math abilities — combined with studies that show that among girls, self-perceived ability affects academic performance — seem to indicate that something like the above dynamic might be going on.

Unfortunately, thinking you’re not very good at something can be a quick path to disliking and avoiding it, even if you do have natural ability. You can begin to avoid practicing it, because to your mind, that practice is more painful than learning what comes more easily. Not practicing, in turn, transforms what started out as a mere aversion into a genuine lack of competence. Unfortunately, the way math is generally taught in the United States — which often downplays practice in favor of emphasizing conceptual understanding — can make this vicious circle even worse for girls.

It’s important to realize that math is, to some extent, like playing a musical instrument. But the instrument you play is your own internal neural apparatus.

When we learn to play an instrument — say, the guitar — it’s obvious that simply understanding how a chord is constructed isn’t the equivalent of being able to play the chord. Guitar teachers know intuitively that the path to success and creativity at the guitar is to practice until the foundational patterns are deeply ingrained. The word “rote” has a bad rap in modern-day learning. But the reality is that rote practice, by which I mean routine practice that keeps the focus on what comes harder for you, plays an important role. The foundational patterns must be ingrained before you can begin to be creative.

Math is like that, too. As the researcher K. Anders Ericsson has shown, becoming an expert at anything requires the development of neural patterns that are acquired through much practice and repetition. Understanding is part of acquiring expertise, but it certainly isn’t all. But today’s “understanding-centered” approach to learning math, combined with efforts to make the subject more “fun” by avoiding drill and practice, shortchanges children of the essential process of instilling the neural patterns they need to be successful. And it may be girls that suffer most. All American students could benefit from more drilling: In the international PISA test, the United States ranks near the bottom among the 35 industrialized nations in math. But girls especially could benefit from some extra required practice, which would not only break the cycle of dislike-avoidance-further dislike, but build confidence and that sense of, “Yes, I can do this!” Practice with math can help close the gap between girls’ reading and math skills, making math seem like an equally good long-term study option. Even if she ultimately chooses a non-STEM career, today’s high-tech world will mean her quantitative skills will still come in handy.

All learning isn’t — and shouldn’t be — “fun.” Mastering the fundamentals is why we have children practice scales and chords when they’re learning to play a musical instrument, instead of just playing air guitar. It’s why we have them practice moves in dance and soccer, memorize vocabulary while learning a new language and internalize the multiplication tables. In fact, the more we try to make all learning fun, the more we do a disservice to children’s abilities to grapple with and learn difficult topics. As Robert Bjork, a leading psychologist, has shown, deep learning involves “desirable difficulties.” Some learning just plain requires effortful practice, especially in the initial stages. Practice and, yes, even some memorization are what allow the neural patterns of learning to take form.

Take it from someone who started out hating math and went on to become a professor of engineering: Do your daughter a favor — give her a little extra math practice each day, even if she finds it painful. In the long run, she’ll thank you for it. (And, by the way: the same applies to your son.)

Barbara Oakley is an engineering professor at Oakland University in Rochester, Mich., and the author of “Learning How to Learn.”

The link of the article: Make Your Daughter Practice Math. She’ll Thank You Later.

Photo from NY Times, Richie Pope