I just came across a Reuters story with the following headline:
Making math uncool is hurting America, report says
As a huge advocate of education and math, I was intrigued. So I began reading the article. And I was immediately taken aback by the unsubstantiated assumptions of the story and, as such, was compelled to read on.
The entire premise of the story is nothing more than subjective guesswork on behalf of researchers led by a University of Madison-Wisconsin professor who conducted a study that apparently (the researchers never explain the actual purpose of the study) was designed to figure out why “a majority of the top young mathematicians in this country were not born here,” according to professor Janet Mertz.
Guess what they concluded? If we didn’t tease the girls so much, more of them would be mathematicians. Nanner neener.
Here are some of their assertions:
They found that while girls can be just as talented as boys at mathematics, some are driven from the field because they are teased, ostracized or simply neglected.
“It is deemed uncool within the social context of USA middle and high schools to do mathematics for fun; doing so can lead to social ostracism. Consequently, gifted girls, even more so than boys, usually camouflage their mathematical talent to fit in well with their peers,” they wrote.
The study also looked at test scores that show that in elementary school girls do as well or better in math than boys. These begin to lag in the middle school years and the gap widens greatly between girls and boys in high school.
Why? Because they are teased. Wow.
I guess there’s no chance that girls like math less than boys? Or maybe boys like math more than girls? Or lacking the availability of any solid data in this story, maybe the gap isn’t nearly as big as is implied?
Just one last thought: If girls stay away from math because they are teased, wouldn’t logic dictate that only the strongest willed boys and girls (aka, the bullies who are doing the teasing) would all become mathematicians?
That might explain the current economic collapse…