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Friday, May 25, 2007

Who Is Better At Maths?Girls Or Boys?

Telling girls that boys are better than they are at mathematics can irritate them so much that it negatively impacts their performance, according to a U.S. study.

Researchers from three U.S. universities found that the threat of stereotypes could create worries that undermined the women's short-term memory system needed for problem solving.

"The women start worrying about screwing up which uses up important short term or working memory which could otherwise be used performing the task," said Sian Beilock, assistant professor in psychology at the University of Chicago and lead investigator in the study.

But the study also found that reminding girls of popular stereotypes, such as boys being better at math, did not just undermine performance in that topic, but in other areas too.

"They get so concerned with the stereotype that this spills over into other tests," Beilock told Reuters.

"Our work suggests that if a girl has a mathematics class first thing in the morning and experiences math-related worries in this class, these worries may carry implications for her performance in the class she attends next."

Researchers have been aware that stereotypes can undermine achievement in schools but little research had focused on the specific mental processes that prompt this response.

The research by Beilock and colleagues from the University of Miami and University of California was based on five studies involving about 200 college women who did well in mathematics.
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