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Mathematical abilities and gender issues

Mathematical abilities are said to differ by gender. Males are supposedly more skilled in mathematical fields than females. Results of intelligence tests, such as the Differential Aptitude Test (DAT), provide evidence to this statement. 12th graders males who took the DAT scored almost nine-tenths of a standard deviation higher on mechanical reasoning than females (Lupkowski, 1992). There are many theories of what may be causing this difference between the genders on mathematical ability. Environmentalists argue that this difference is caused by gender biased education, while some other researchers argue that it is the characteristics of the genders that cause this ability gap. The reason is still not certain.


Characteristic differences are one of the theories said to be the reason for greater mathematical performances among male students. Males are said to have high self-esteem, while females are not as confident. When studying mathematics at a young age, males believe that they do well, when the truth is that their abilities do not differ much from females (Leonard, 1995). This level of confidence, motivation, and interest in the mathematical field eventually results in mathematical ability gaps (Manning, 1998).

Biased education

There are many people who believe that biased education is the reason of the mathematical ability differences. As an example of biased education, a woman who scored the same as a man on a test was given worse grades than the man. The professor who taught her believed that women did not belong in his field (Isaacson, 1990). There are also examples of biased education where although girls offer ideas as much as boys, boys are called upon more frequently. Leder (1990) comments that, “Acknowledgement, praise, encouragement, and corrective feedback are given slightly more frequently to men than to women”. Females also tend to put less effort into mathematics than linguistics because they are tied up with stereotypical statements saying that they will not succeed in the mathematics field. The stereotypical thought that men make better mathematicians, scientists, or engineers, are still engraved in women’s minds, discouraging women from studying mathematics.


National Science Foundation (1997). Gender issues in math and technology. TERC. Retrieved July 22, 2004, from

Tencza (2002). Gender Differences in Mathematics Among Various Aged Students. Georgetown College. Retrieved July 22, 2004 from

Stanley, Benbow, Brody, Dauber, &Lupkowski (1992). Gender Differences on Eighty-Six Nationally Standardized Aptitude and Achievement Tests, Talent Development, vol.1, 42-65

Last updated: 01-23-2005 13:08:23