Positive Parenting: Numbers to Consider

Right now in the United States there are more men than women employed in science, technology, engineering and math fields.

Are boys hardwired to be better at math from an early age?

We take a look today in Positive Parenting.

When it comes to numbers, are boys and girls born with different skill sets? 

Social scientists studied 80 infants to measure a basic math skill called intuitive number sense.

Researchers flashed sets of dots on a screen and recorded where the babies were looking.

“They can tell the difference between the number of dots that they see. They certainly can’t count them. They don’t know that one is exactly eight and one is 16, but they know that there’s one quantity that’s larger than the other,” explained Dr. Melissa Libertus, a cognitive psychologist.

Researchers also tested older boys’ and girls’ abilities to count and to judge quantities using a tablet. All together the researchers looked at data from 500 kids, age six months to eight years.

“Are boys better than girls at these basic things? The short answer is no. None of the areas that we tested did we see any gender differences between boys and girls,” said Dr. Libertus.

Researchers say it may be that parents and teachers perceive that boys are better than girls at math. Those stereotypes can shape girls’ math learning.

Researchers suggest parents give boys and girls equal access to toys, like puzzles and blocks, activities that can build math skills from the ground up.

The cognitive psychologists with the Learning and Development Center at Pitt say while children aren’t born with gender-specific math skills, it’s possible that differences emerge as girls get older due to the development of other cognitive skills, or from cultural stereotypes.

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