Saturday, July 26, 2008

Girls Good at Math

By studying test scores of 7 million students in 10 States, American researchers have concluded that girls are just as good as boys with math. Researchers from the University of California and U of Wisconsin compared average performance all students, scores of the most gifted children and ability to solve complex problems. In all cases, girls measured up to boys. The researchers noted that a gender gap continues in the workplace. Even today young women are not encouraged in science careers.

The advocates of inflation, string theory, the Maldacena conjecture and Geometric Langlands program enjoy rich careers and are all men. If a woman undergraduate were to predict from pure math that the speed of light slows down, she might conceivably be ignored or shut out of research. At the very least she would be accused of not learning the rote, that c is constant. With today's shrinking opportunities in research, that might kill a career.

Ignoring contributions made by 50% of the population is not logical. Everyone should see the challenges to women, and work to reduce them. We have made a lot of progress, every year more women take up science careers. Getting more women in science would help the "Trouble" with physics, and the science education gap in the Western world. Much work needs to be done.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nothing against you but, in my country though, the things is just the opposite. Boys beat girls in higher education and math.

The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), the world's 3rd best tech university (after MIT & UC) conducts an entry exam (which is dead tough) where the ratio is 200 boys to 30 girls.

In Olympiads as well, a lot of the Indian Olympiad teams have more boys. They've also won a lot like in Japanese and Chinese olympiads.

But, like I said first. Nothing against you. Peace out. :)

7:11 AM  
Blogger alkkemist said...

7:53 AM  
Blogger nige said...

Well, all the girls I had crushes on at School and College were far better than me at maths. There was just one dance lesson given in six years (it was held in place of a 45 minute PE session) at my school, where we were paired up for dancing without choice, and I ended up dancing with Moira, the girl who was best at maths in the school. It was hard to tell which of us was the most embarrassed (probably her, because I was having great fun having to hold her hands for some of the dances, which obviously I wasn't concentrating on).

I think she took her pure and applied maths A-level two years early and obtained grade A. Then the next year she did the 'Further Pure Maths' A-level syllabus and obtained another grade A.

How she did it is something I don't know. Maybe she was just a born genius, or maybe she had parents who were teachers, or brothers or sisters who passed on textbooks to her while she was young.

She must have had some kind of motivation to learn the calculus of hyperbolic trigonometry. I just find it scary to meet someone who can integrate cosec squared theta over the range of theta between minus half Pi and plus half Pi without panic or at least the help of a quick flick through a calculus book. It's intimidating, and makes me feel worthless.

Goodness knows what she is doing now. I wouldn't be surprised if she ends up as a Prime Minister. ;-)

Then at university, the female tutor of the student group I was a member of had an undergraduate degree in maths and a PhD in programming.

In the UK few girls study physics, but many study mathematics and do well at it in their exams. I usually recall the vital techniques and equations I need in a exam about half an hour after the exam ends. So maybe it's partly a case that girls have a better memory for abstract symbols and are better at coping with maths exams?

8:16 AM  
Blogger nige said...

(Sorry, idiocy error: for the scary hyperbolic trigonometry integral, I should have said something like the integral of cosh theta, not the integral of cosec theta.)

8:20 AM  
Blogger Kea said...

How true. Much of the Trouble with Physics comes from the macho attitudes of the protagonists. It's time physics starting saying useful things about the real world again. Once the world gets rid of this last haven for king jerks, it will be a better place.

8:55 AM  
Blogger Angry said...

Conflating sexism with the lack of acceptance of your ideas is a disservice to equality for women. Furthermore, such false hyperbole that there exist no female advocates of string theory detracts severely from your credibility.

12:13 PM  
Blogger Kea said...

Credibility? What credibility?

8:18 PM  
Blogger Red River said...

Thought you might find this interesting.

"What we have learned about gifted Children."

Boys are brought to be tested at a ration of 60/40 over girls, yet girls have the same distribution of scores as boys AND the highest score > 200 is from a girl.

"IQ testing in childhood clearly demonstrates the equality of intelligence between males and females. Until the IQ test was developed, most of society believed in the “natural superiority of males.” Even now, the fact that most of the eminent are men leads some to believe that males are innately more intelligent than females. On the contrary, we have found more than 100 girls with IQ scores above 180. The highest IQ score on record at our Center was attained by a girl, and four of the five highest scores were earned by girls. However, parents are more likely to bring their sons for assessment and overlook their daughters. From 1979 to 1989, 57% of the children brought for testing were male, and 43% were female, whereas 51% above 160 IQ were male and 49% female (see chart). Now, 60% of our clients are male and 40% female, which matches the distribution in the highest IQ ranges. "

"Gifted girls and gifted boys have different coping mechanisms and are likely to face different problems. Gifted girls hide their abilities and learn to blend in with other children. In elementary school they direct their mental energies into developing social relationships; in junior high school they are valued for their appearance and sociability rather than for their intelligence. Gifted boys are easier to spot, but they are often considered “immature" and may be held back in school if they cannot socialize with children their own age with whom they have no common interests."

11:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No offense, but in my experience, women have not only been given equal opportunities in physics, engineering and math, but have been preferentially advanced, especially in those institutions where government funding is involved. The few exceptions to this were cases where department heads are first generation immigrants from countries with an ongoing tradition of male superiority.

My wife, who is an engineer, has enjoyed an easier route through school, faster advancement and been given more interesting jobs due to her sex, and is the first to admit it. The one instance of discrimination she has encountered on the job was due to her age and ironically by another women engineer.

I also suggest you stop talking about being personally discriminated against because of sex. You're talking yourself into a reason to fail. People are disciminated against for a variety of reasons, the point is that you do your best and you will eventually succeed. I say this as someone who had my family pass away just before I went to college. I had no money and had to work part time to survive, sometimes going hungry. I eventually got my PhD but had to struggle far more than most. You can say I was discriminated against by fate, but I have no regrets because there were other compensations.

9:55 PM  
Blogger steve poling said...

my daughter is studying nuclear engineering at umich and from what I can tell the boy/girl ratio is much less unbalanced than when I was an undergrad. Moreover, she is in an internship at a local nuclear power plant and her peers seem to be equally divided male & female.

That said, there's a bit of difference between a stellar undergraduate career and a Nobel prize. Thus, we may be talking past those who claim the Nobel-prize is a boy's club. People smart enough to work at that level are rare. We have much smaller populations from which to draw inferences. Perhaps the appeal and demands of motherhood provide sufficient distraction to divert just enough genius level females to explain the statistical skew.

6:22 AM  
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