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Why Do Boys Achieve More than Girls in Science and Mathematics? (From Mady SAWADOGO, Provincial High School of Kaya)

If there is no difference is general intelligence between boys and girls, what can explain girls’ lack of success in science and mathematics?
It seems to be that their treatment at school is a direct cause. Mathematics and science are seen as mainly masculine subjects, and therefore, as girls become teenagers, they are less likely to take them. Interestingly, both boys and girls tend to regard the ‘masculine’ subjects as more difficult. Yet it has been suggested that girls avoid mathematics courses, not because they are difficult, but for social reasons. Girls do not want to be in open competition with boys because they are afraid to appear less feminine and attractive.
However, if we examine the performance of boys and girls who have undertaken mathematics courses, there are still more high-achieving boys than there are girls. This difference appears to be world-wide (see graph). Biological explanations have been offered for his, but there are other explanations too.
Perhaps the difference which comes out during the teenage years has its roots in much earlier experiences. From their first days in nursery school, males are encouraged to work on their own and to complete tasks. Evidence shows that exceptional mathematicians and scientists have not had teachers who supplied answers.
Apart from that, there can be little doubt that teachers of mathematics and science expect their male students to do better at these subjects than their female students. They even appear to encourage the difference between the sexes. They spend more time with the male students, giving them longer to answer questions and working harder to get correct responses from them. They are more likely to call on boys for answers and to allow them to take the lead in classroom discussion. They also praise boys more frequently. All of this tends to encourage boys to work harder in science and mathematics and to give them confidence that they are able to succeed.
Such male-oriented teaching is not likely to encourage girls to take many mathematics and science courses, nor is it likely to support girls who do. It seems certain, then, that where these subjects are concerned, school widens the difference between boys and girls.
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