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July 25th, 2008

Math and the female brain

So I used to buy into "women are better at verbal, and men at math".. and since I was always really good with logic puzzles, spatial geometry, and usually surrounded by men in my Computer Science classes.. I always thought that I was the oddball.

But then, I read the amazing story about the parents who managed to raise 3 female chess grandmasters, the polgar sisters... even though female grandmasters are thought to be rare, and women just aren't supposed to be as good as men in chess. The articles talks about how people who play chess well, have different wiring in their brains..  irregardless of gender. Basically, if you take 5 year old girls, and play chess or logic puzzles with them instead of barbies.. they'll have their brains wired differently, and find spatial/chess stuff easier as they grow up.

So two days ago, I was listening on NPR, about this female scientist who got really annoyed at the ex Harvard president's infamous gender speech. Yes, there was a previous study that showed that male/females scored the same until they hit puberty.. then females fared worse. But it was an old study. 

However, thanks to "No Child Left Behind", kids have to take standardized math tests.. And she went and looked at 7 million recent data on math and gender...and guess what? There were NO difference in the scores of male or female students, whether young or older students. Females perform comparably to males.

Her study is being published in the Science journal, and NPR said that various smart people have looked at it and declared it a solid study.

Men are not inherently better then women in math. That makes me happy. I'm not weird after all. I am thankful to the Uncle who insisted on teaching me chess when I was a little girl.