Impulsiveness May Give Boys an Edge in Math

Approaching math problems impulsively–by guessing at answers from memory rather than carefully calculating their responses–may give boys an edge over girls in the subject.  LiveScience.com reports on the study, which concludes that parents of boys and girls alike can help their children by encouraging them to “shout out the answers” in math class:

The University of Missouri study followed 300 students from first grade to sixth grade. During those first two years, the boys called out more answers in class than the girls but also had more wrong answers. Girls were more often right, but answered fewer questions and responded more slowly, according to the university. By sixth grade, the boys were still answering more problems than the girls and were also getting more correct.

Several recent studies have argued that gender differences in math performance have more to do with culture than aptitude. Research published last year found that certain countries — generally ones with more gender equality, better teachers and fewer students living in poverty — showed a smaller gap between males and females in math and some had no gap at all.

Other research has pointed to inherent gender biases in the classroom. One such study found that high school math teachers tended to rate girls’ math abilities lower than those of male students, even when the girls’ grades and test scores were comparable to boys.

Gender issues aside, the researchers of the Missouri study — which was published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology — had some advice for parents based on the findings. “Parents can give their children an advantage by making them comfortable with numbers and basic math before they start grade school, so that the children will have fewer trepidations about calling out answers,” David Geary, a co-author of the study, said in a statement.

Image: Elementary school children, via Shutterstock.

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