Friday, July 25, 2008

News Flash! Girls as good as boys in math.

Girls now score equally as well as boys on standardized tests in grades 2-11.

Barbie needs to update her resume.
Back in 1992, Barbie stopped saying math was hard after Mattel received complaints from, among others, the American Association of University Women.
So far, while her current career choices include baby doctor and veterinarian — and Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, too — Barbie has not branched out into technology or engineering.


derekstaff said...

Good to hear that old saw being about Girls and math being proven wrong.

- Derek (who hit a mental wall at trig, but whose wife successfully passed calculus)

tamar said...

I always loved math and did well in it, but am quite disturbed by the outrage in response to comments by Larry Summers regarding gender disparities. (I read the actual transcript of the "offensive" remarks; he has been accused of saying things he did not actually say!)
It is mathematically possible (and oh so likely) for there to be small shifts in, and/or contractions or dilations of the distribution curves between genders (or just about any other division you can think of) regarding any quality from height to intelligence. In the case of mathematical aptitude this means that even though the area under the two curves is almost entirely overlapping (signifying close to identical performance overall) the differences will be disproportionately experienced at the extreme margins. So although women are clearly basically as good at math as men, it is possible (and at this point empirically shown) that at the extreme margins men outnumber women significantly. For whatever reason, women have tended to exhibit a slightly more compressed normal curve for mathematical thinking. There seem to be more retarded men, but more extreme geniuses as well.

Perhaps future results will vary, and wherever methodological problems are detected, they must be addressed. But to be personally affronted by the very possibility of such a gender difference demonstrates a lack of the very quality that women are insisting they possess in equal measure----sophisticated mathematical understanding. Most embarrassingly, the hysterical response to Larry Summers statements seem to make the case for bigots (not Summers) to be able to say that women are idiots.

djinn said...

As I understand it, the compressed normal curve vis-a-vis women and men holds across intelligence, and also is true in other areas, as well. Men have a wider spread. I suggested to a professor that this was because of the y chromosome--for the set of genetic material on the X of the XY pair (that is, basically all of it) there is no buffering effect of another chromosone--whatever the value of the single chromosone, that's what you get. That is, there is no regression towards the middle, as there is in the rest of our genetic code.

He disagreed, saying that the same flattened curve was found in birds, as well; bird girls have the y chromosone equivalent. I'm not yet convinced.

BTW, what finally got Larry Summers into real trouble was financial and diplomatic shenanegins with a former student (whom he protected) that ended up costing the school millions of dollars; making Harvard and the US look foolish, losing lots of credibility for the US in Russia, and quite possibly harming Russia, as well. Quite the scandal, and, as far as I can tell, almost, but not entirely hidden. Read a smattering of juicy details here

djinn said...

chromosone=chromosome. Sigh.

tamar said...

Thank goodness you understand exactly what I am getting at. I am so sick of being reviled by people who misunderstand the issue and consider me a traitor to my gender. The genetics are very complicated (no kidding?!) but when you stop to consider the significantly different rate of aggressive behavior exhibited by men (people can't realistically just CLAIM that it is all environmental), it certainly seems that if the brain can vary so much in that dimension, it seems silly to claim , a priori, that any differences in intelligence must all be caused by testing errors, the environment and so on.
Thanks for the tip on Larry Summers' other shenanigans.