Thursday, September 26, 2013

Boys, Girls, Math, and the SAT

Dr. Perry has some cool charts from which he draws some interesting conclusions:
Continuing an uninterrupted trend that dates back to at least 1972, high school boys outperformed girls on the 2013 SAT math test with an average score of 531 points compared to the average score of 499 for females...

For scores in the highest 100-point range of 700-800 on the 2013 math SAT test, boys outnumbered girls by 74,461 to 46,040, which would mean that there were 162 boys for every 100 girls scoring at 700 points or above. To account for the large difference in the number of girls taking the SAT test (884,000) compared to boys (776,000), we can calculate that 9.6% of boys taking the math SAT exam in 2013 scored between 700-800 points compared to 5.2% the girls taking the test, for an adjusted ratio of 184 boys per 100 girls scoring at 700 points or above...

For 2013 SAT test-takers, high school girls had superior overall academic high school records compared to boys: 56% of the students in the top 10 percent of their graduating classes were female, 59% of the students graduating with an A+ grade point average were female, and high schools girls graduated with a higher overall average GPA of 3.44 compared to a 3.30 average GPA for their male counterparts.

High school girls were over-represented in advanced AP/Honors math classes (54%) compared to boys (46%), and also in advanced AP/Honors science classes by 56% to 44%.

For those high school students taking four years of high school mathematics, girls were over-represented (52%) compared to boys (48%), and more of the students studying natural sciences for four years were female students (53%) than male (47%).

Bottom Line: Even though female high school students are better prepared academically on many different measures than their male classmates, both overall and for mathematics specifically, female high school students score significantly lower on the SAT math test, and the +30-point differences in test scores favoring males has persisted for generations.  At the high end of math performance, high school males significantly outperformed their female peers on the 2013 SAT math test by a ratio of about 2-1 for perfect and near-perfect scores, and that outcome has persisted for generations.

And yet, despite the persistent, statistically significant differences in math performance by gender on the math SAT test that continue over time, we frequently hear statements like this: “There just aren’t gender differences anymore in math performance,” says University of Wisconsin-Madison psychology professor Janet Hyde, “So parents and teachers need to revise their thoughts about this.  Stereotypes are very, very resistant to change, but as a scientist I have to challenge them with data.”
I wonder what Larry Summers would say about that last paragraph :-)

Anyway, that was the data, here's the conclusion:
Further, compared to boys, high school girls get better grades on average, and are far more likely to graduate in the top 10% of their high school classes, and much more likely than boys to attend and graduate from college.  By all objective measures, girls have essentially all of the necessary ingredients that should result in greater representation in STEM fields like engineering and computer science except perhaps for one: a huge, statistically significant +30-point gender gap on the SAT math test in favor of boys that persists over time. And if there are some innate differences by gender for mathematical ability, as the huge and persistent gender differences for the math SAT test suggests, closing the STEM gender jobs gap may be a futile attempt in socially engineering an unnatural, and unachievable, outcome.
Is the science settled?


maxutils said...

Not sure. What conclusions are you drawing?

Anonymous said...

I am a professor of engineering. And I do NOT count myself in the top 1 percent of math ability. I am high up there, but I am not a member of the stratosphere.

There are three aspects to the math curve.

The low
The middle
The high.

I think that we must recognize that no matter how much we install social engineering, the top will always be male dominated. Nothing will change that.

And so long as that irritates feminists, they will forever orchestrate interventions, justifications, manipulations and accusastions of sexism in order to put girls in that top one percent.

And I attribute the low scores of girls on math tests to these feminist inspired interventions.

One does not need to be in the top one percent to be a meaningul engineer or scientist. I am an example of that.

At some point, we should stop this, recognize biology and move on to ensure all girls and all boys do exceptionally well in the middle hump which, in reality, has contributed most to engineering and the sciences.

PeggyU said...

And ... to realize that while this is true of people in general, it still makes no difference to the individual who excels - no matter what the gender.

Darren said...

True. Some will *attempt* to misinterpret this to say that all boys are better at math than all girls, or something equally silly and straw-man-ish.

Ellen K said...

Unfortunately the feminists hold sway in most educational institutions, they will seek ways to further hamstring boys and the way they learn in order to elevate girls. I hate to put it like that, but that is what has happened in many aspects in our public schools. Boys are more likely to be viewed as problems. What is more, the push to have children reading by first grade as opposed to previous decades of experience that recognized the physiological maturation of the brain doesn't occur until nearly seven in male children will further send boys to the ranks of special education. Sometimes things are the way they are. I'm sure there are some very smart female mathematicians in our world. But honestly, aren't there some aspects of our world that could use some Humanities too?

PeggyU said...

I wonder how well math and reading readiness have been studied? If what Ellen said is true, and boys are more likely to be developmentally ready for reading at around age 7, couldn't there also be an optimum time to begin teaching math to girls (generally speaking, of course)? One thing I have observed many times in tutoring is that adult women who have gone back to school and are required to take math classes seem surprised to discover that it is no longer as "hard" as they remembered it to be ... and that it actually makes sense. Many of these women have harbored a long standing math phobia, left over from earlier experiences with algebra, etc. I find this group to be particularly rewarding to work with because of that. I just am curious as to whether there is a common gender related developmental delay.

As an example, I had a friend who, after her divorce, decided to go back for an accounting degree and needed to take calculus. First, she retook algebra, then had to take precalc (which she hadn't taken before) as prerequisites. She surprised herself, since in her words she had "never been good at math."

maxutils said...

Every single year I've taught math, my best students have been female. And it's been almost 50-50. The SAT is not a good representation of math skill, just as no other multiple choice math test would be.