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Math gender gap is history

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Snapshot for August 20, 2008.

Math gender gap is history

by Joydeep Roy

According to conventional wisdom, girls fear mathematics and shy away from it. However, a recent study from the U.S. Department of Education shows that girls in high school have bridged the gender gap that once existed, and in some respects are more advanced than boys in math.

Every 10 years or so, the Department of Education conducts a study of high school students, collecting detailed information on their course-taking behavior from school transcripts. The last three studies show that boys and girls, on average, now earn the same number of credits in mathematics during high school (see Chart).1 In 1982, boys earned a slightly higher number of credits on average in math than girls (2.8 compared to 2.6), but the difference had vanished by 1992. Both boys and girls earned the same number of credits in math in 1992 (3.3) and in 2004 (3.6).

enlarge imageMath credits earned by high school graduates, by gender: 1982, 1992, and 2004

In another interesting development, the study found that girls are now slightly more likely than boys to take advanced math courses. In 1982, fewer than 10% of girls had completed pre-calculus or calculus, compared to about 12% of boys. By 2004, 34% of girls were completing pre-calculus or calculus, compared to 32% of boys.

1. These three studies are the High School and Beyond Longitudinal Study of 1980 sophomores, the National Education Longitudinal Study of the Class of 1992, and the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 sophomores.

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