Researchers want to put an end to the myth boys are better than girls at maths, after a new study found there’s no difference at all between them.
“Science doesn’t align with folk beliefs,” said Jessica Cantlon of Carnegie Mellon University, who led a team that examined the brain development of young boys and girls.
“We see that children’s brains function similarly regardless of their gender so hopefully we can recalibrate expectations of what children can achieve in mathematics.”
They used MRI scanning to look at the brains of 104 kids aged three to 10 while they watched educational videos about mathematics, and found no difference between the sexes in how the brain responded.
“It’s not just that boys and girls are using the math network in the same ways but that similarities were evident across the entire brain,” said co-author Alyssa Kersey of the University of Chicago.
And looking at test scores, they found no difference in ability.
Cantlon said the only reason there’s a lack of women in science, engineering and math jobs is society – teachers spend more time helping boys with maths, wrongly writing girls off from a young age, for example.
“Typical socialization can exacerbate small differences between boys and girls that can snowball into how we treat them in science and math. We need to be cognisant of these origins to ensure we aren’t the ones causing the gender inequities.”
The research was published in journal Science of Learning on Friday.