Education ForumDIVERSITY

Culture, Gender, and Math

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Science  30 May 2008:
Vol. 320, Issue 5880, pp. 1164-1165
DOI: 10.1126/science.1154094

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  • Awards for women and girls’ attainment
    • Eiji Yamamura, Prof., Seinan Gakuin Univ, Department of Economics (Japan)

    The gender gap in math scores is reported to have disappeared in countries with gender-equal cultures (see Science 320, 1164-1165; 2008). This finding suggests that the gap is contingent on girls’ motivation. In 2014, Maryam Mirzakhani, an Iranian, became the first woman to win the Fields Medal in mathematics. This accomplishment could motivate Iranian girls to apply themselves in learning math. Similarly, the attainments of female Nobel Prize awardees may motivate girls to learn science.

    I used the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) data for 2011 and 2015 to examine the impact of the Fields Medal on the gender gap in math scores. In 2011, boys’ average math score in Iran was 7 points higher than that of girls in the eighth grade. However, in 2015, girls’ scored three points higher than boys. Compared with boys, Iranian girls increased their average math scores by 10 points after the first woman won the Fields Medal. A similar tendency was observed for the fourth grade during the same period. However, this trend was not observed for other countries in the sample.

    Nobel Prize awardees included one (French) woman in 2008 and three (Israeli and American) women in 2009. Using Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) data for 2006 and 2012, I found that in 2006, boys’ average scores of science were 2.6, 3.5, and 0.6 points higher than the girls’ scores for French, Israeli, and American samples, respectively. However, in...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • Response to M. Thorek's E-Letter

    Our paper states that in more gender-equal societies the math gap (average math score of girls minus average math score of boys) decreases. This is an average statement based on a statistically significant linear relationship. It does not imply that in every country with a more gender-equal society the gender gap is smaller, i.e., it does not imply a perfect fit of the data. For example, as Thorek states, Iceland and Finland do...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • Gender Equality in Mathematics Knowledge

    According to the 2006 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) data provided by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (1), Finland is actually ahead of Iceland when it comes to gender equality, yet girls there score a statistically significant 12 points worse in math than in Iceland. And in Germany, ranked 7th on the equality scale, girls are 20 points behind Iceland.

    In Jorda...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.

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