NUMERO UNO

Numero Uno

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Who hasn’t heard cliché girls can never be good at mathematics? But says who? Studies show girls are just as good as boys in mathematics.

Do girls really fare worse than boys when it comes to studying science or more specifically while doing mathematically? Most people, including academics seem to think so. No less an authority than the president of Havard University, Lawrence Summers reiterated the same thing a few years back when he suggested that the lack of innate aptitude of women was a factor behind their low numbers in science and engineering. He had to resign, of course, but not before another “authority” the well -known evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker, argued that Summers’ remarks were scientifically justified and should not be considered offensive.

Well, too bad for them because it’s official now: girls are apparently just as good at math as boys. That was the finding of a study- the largest of its kind ever- released by Wisconsin- Madison, USA, said a comparison of standardised mathematical test scores of approximately seven million students showed girls did as well as boys at virtually every reports from some 20 years ago when girls were found to be lagging behind boys. Obviously, something other than genes are at work here in narrowing the gap.

Normally, the perception which prevails among both parents and teachers is that boys are better at math and as a conditioned reflex, girls keep buying into that. By believing the stereotype they wind up avoiding harder math classes which keep them out of a lot careers in later life, particularly high prestige, lucrative ones in science and technology.

However according to new study programmes promoting girls participation in mathematics and science as has been done in the US, is the ideal solution because the more girls are encouraged to take advanced math classes, the better they do on tests. This clearly suggests that cultural and social factors, not gender alone, influence ability to understand mathematical concepts. The relevance of the encouragement factor in a country like India, where the same mindset is even more rampant, cannot be overstated. Along with encouraging parents to give girls an education, if they could also be persuaded to push them along science streams, it could result in expanded opportunities for their children in the future.