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Math Looks The Same In The Brains Of Boys And Girls, Study Finds


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CMU's Jessica Cantlon explains a math game to a study participant

Carnegie Mellon University neuroscientist Jessica Cantlon explains a math game to a study participant.

Credit: Carnegie Mellon University

There's new evidence that girls start out with the same math abilities as boys.

A study of 104 children from ages 3 to 10 found similar patterns of brain activity in boys and girls as they engaged in basic math tasks, researchers say. The work is described in "Gender Similarities in the Brain During Mathematics Development," published in the journal Science of Learning.

"They are indistinguishable," says Jessica Cantlon, an author of the study and professor of developmental neuroscience at Carnegie Mellon University.

The finding challenges the idea that more boys than girls end up in STEM fields because they are inherently better at the sort of thinking those fields require. It also backs other studies that found similar math abilities in males and females early in life.

So why are fields like mathematics and computer science so dominated by men?

Cantlon suspects the answer involves the societal messages girls and young women get, and the difficulty of entering a field that includes very few women. "You can look at ratios of women and men participating in different activities and you can get the hint," she says.

From NPR
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