Females are just as good at math as males. In ‘The Prevalence of Gender Myths in Math’ released online on 12 October 2004, Barnett and Rivers suggest that the gender disparity in math and STEM courses is the product of societal factors that have persuaded most girls to be good at math and therefore not to seek math-related professions. The low percentage of female students in STEM courses is attributed to assumptions of male superiority in mathematics and has little to do with the inherent capacity of women to perform mathematics. The review will draw from other sources which include the article ‘Toy Story” which addresses the issue of the effect of gender toys on children’s choices. The article “Sex Differences in the Brain” by Kimura Doreen analyses the impact of hormonal exposure on the structural development of the brain. The third article “current research on gender differences in math,” analyses the factors which contribute to the gender gap in math, and lastly the article “Math + culture = gender gap” which argues that the gender gap is due to gender stereotypes, and teacher attitudes. I agree with Barnet and Rivers argument that gender gap cannot be explained by innate brain differences instead teachers, gender stereotypes are to blame for demotivating girls; hence, teachers need to observe their roles in increasing the gap.
The authors argue that the fact that the number of men in math outweighs the number of women is not evidence for innate male superiority in the subject is a persuasive statement. Men and women are not born with different cognitive skills. The difference in spatial abilities is because of the kind of training they get while growing up and therefore, the differences in their math abilities can be attributed to this. The article “Toy Story” concurs with this argument. The paper entails an analysis of how toys instill certain stereotypes in children by using the example of Tetris and Barbie dolls. According to Blake Tanya (p.35), a kid’s brain structure can be developed to think in a certain way and hence affect their performance in certain aspects. For example, exposing a girl child to a game of Tetris at an early age can help in changing the wiring of her brain and hence improve her spatial abilities. Therefore, the brains of boys are wired to think in a certain way basing on the games they play from a young age while girls do not get such training. Therefore, developing such skills in girls can equally enhance their spatial skills and push them towards choosing STEM courses.
Secondly, I also agree with the authors’ statement that personal choice has nothing to do with women avoiding STEM careers. The stereotypes surrounding math and genders are that women are not good at math having more to do with most girls dropping out of STEM courses. Most of the girls, even if they are good at math, they are likely to believe that boys perform higher at math than girls. The stereotypes affect young girls and this also evidenced in the article, “Math + culture = gender gap” by Azar Beth. Azar argues that the performance of girls in math is not because of their innate characteristics but negative stereotypes, lack of sense of competition and the attitude towards math. According to Azar (2) “the performance of girls and boys in math is the same. However, girls who endorsed cultural stereotypes that girls are not good at math recorded a drop in performance.” The article by Ganley and Lubieski on “current research on gender differences in math” further justifies the statement. The article explains that attitudes and value, spatial skills, strategies of problem solving and teachers anxiety are the reason behind gender gap in math. Ganley and Lubienski (2) state that “girls end up performing poorly in math when they have a female teacher who is anxious about math.” Girls are most affected by the society’s way of thinking because they are more likely to pick on the stereotypes unconsciously or consciously than boys are. And the more they accept these stereotypes, the less likely they are to continue pursuing STEM courses. Therefore, girls dropping out of STEM courses are not by choice but cultural influences which make them feel that specific subjects are not meant for their gender.
I strongly agree with the statement that girls are not good at math because of their brain structure. The brains structure of men is systematized hence making them good at problem-solving. On the other hand, the brain structure of women is empathic, and this explains their mothering and caretaking characters. The article “Sex differences in brain” by Kimura Doreen analyses how different sexes get exposed to sex hormones at different times and how the timing affects the brain organization. The author explains, “Men’s early exposure to sex hormones leads to alteration of their brain functions, hence improves their spatial abilities” (2). Therefore, this explains why men are better at problem-solving as well as activities which require manipulation of objects while women are good at languages. However, not all women are poor in math. Kimura Doreen states, “Women with high testosterone levels are good at spatial tasks” (3). Some women are good at math just like their male counterparts. Therefore, this generalization does not apply to all women.
The authors say that parents are to blame for girls avoiding STEM careers. The society believes that girls are not good at math and this idea is deeply ingrained in people’s minds. As a result, a parent may end up unwittingly hold back their daughter from perusing these careers from the manner they talk to their kids. Parents attributing the success of a boy in math to natural talent and the success of a girl to hard work do not encourage the girl in the sense that it gives her the feeling that she is struggling to be as competitive in a territory meant for boys. It is easier for children to get carried ways by such comments because “they tend to accept other people’s opinions” (Blake 35) to the extent that it affects significant aspects of their lives such as career choices. They grow up knowing that problem solving is for men and hence tend to shy away from the STEM courses and incline more to other disciplines such as humanities and languages.
In conclusion, if the society could avoid stereotyping math and the other Stem courses the gender gap could be narrow than it is now. Barnet and Rivers seek to explain some of the many factors contributing to the increasing gender gap in Math and Stem subjects. Thus, factors such as innate characters and personal choices do not contribute to this gap instead teachers, parents and gender stereotypes are to blame for demotivating girls from pursuing STEM careers. The society needs to observe their roles in increasing the gap because these factors are not only affecting girls at an individual level but the economy as well.
Azar, Beth. “Math + culture = gender gap?” American Psychological Association, 2010.
Barnet, Rosalind Chait, and Caryly Rivers. “The Persistence of Gender Myths in Math.”
Education Week, 2014.
Blake, Tanya. “Toy Story.” Professional Engineering, 2014.
Ganley, Colleen and Lubienski,Sarah. “Current Research on Gender Differences in Math.”
Teaching Children Math, 2017.
Kimura, Doreen. “Sex Differences in the Brain.” Scientific America, 2002.