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Location: Ames, Iowa, United States

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Women Not Good At Math?

Harvard's president, Larry Summers came under fire a while back, for saying that women in general are not very good at math and that's why they aren't successful at Harvard, especially in teaching positions. I paraphrased that...so his words might have been slightly different.
Summers did offer a sort of apology, but didn't back down from his views. Susan Estrich blogged about it the other day:


Now I agree with Susan, that the guy is a dolt. But there is actual scientific evidence that women's and men's brains actually work differently. Here is an article I found:

Why Women Can't Read Maps
There is a reason why many women (not all! but many) have trouble reading maps. The brains of men and women function in markedly different ways, which means they really do think differently, according to researchers from the University of California, Irvine and the University of New Mexico.
The human brain is composed of two types of tissue--gray matter and white matter. While men and women have about the same amount of gray matter and white matter, men appear to use more gray matter, while women use more white matter. Before we proceed further, it's important to note that while the two genders may think differently, this does not affect their intellectual performance or overall intelligence.
The study: Using magnetic resonance imaging equipment, the researchers performed a series of brain scans on 26 female and 22 male volunteers, all of whom were in good health and had no history of brain injury. The average IQ scores of the two genders were similar. The brain scans occurred while the volunteers carried out tests designed to assess their general intelligence.
The results: The human brain--male or female--is composed of about 40 percent gray matter and 60 percent white matter. When given intelligence tests, men used 6.5 times more gray matter than women, while women used nine times as much white matter. What is the difference between gray matter and white matter? Gray is central to processing information and plays a vital role in aiding skills such as mathematics, map-reading, and intellectual thought. White matter connects the brain's processing centers and is central to emotional thinking, use of language, and the ability to do more than one thing at once. Because women use less gray matter--critical to map-reading--they tend to have more difficulty with this skill than men.
"This may help explain why men tend to excel in tasks requiring more local processing, like mathematics and map-reading, while women tend to excel at integrating information from various brain regions, such as is required for language skills," co-study author and neuropsychologist Rex Jung of the University of New Mexico told the Daily Telegraph. "These two very different pathways and activity centers, however, result in equivalent overall performance on broad measures of cognitive ability, such as those found on intelligence tests."
This isn't the first study to assail women's map-reading skills. Previous research has also shown that women have weaker spatial awareness than men, which makes it more difficult for them to read maps. But women outshine men when it comes to vocabulary. In childhood, girls' vocabulary develops more quickly than that of boys; by adulthood, women can speak 20,000 to 25,000 words a day compared to a man's 7,000 to 10,000.
"These findings suggest that human evolution has created two different types of brains designed for equally intelligent behavior," co-author and psychology professor Richard Haier of the University of California, Irvine told MSNBC.
The study findings were published in the online edition of the journal NeuroImage.

So there is some science to what Summers said. But I'll bet he doesn't know about it.

By the way, there are a lot of females who perform quite well in math and science. My daughter is taking Computer Engineering at Iowa State University, and gets good grades in math (when she studies)

I'll be back



Blogger Roberto Iza Valdes said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

06 November, 2005 23:28  

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