Recent public discussions have suggested that the under-representation of women in science and mathematics careers can be traced back to intrinsic differences in aptitude. However, true gender differences are difficult to assess because sociocultural influences enter at an early point in childhood. If these claims of intrinsic differences are true, then gender differences in quantitative and mathematical abilities should emerge early in human development. We examined cross-sectional gender differences in mathematical cognition from over 500 children aged 6 months to 8 years by compiling data from five published studies with unpublished data from longitudinal records. We targeted three key milestones of numerical development: numerosity perception, culturally trained counting, and formal and informal elementary mathematics concepts. In addition to testing for statistical differences between boys’ and girls’ mean performance and variability, we also tested for statistical equivalence between boys’ and girls’ performance. Across all stages of numerical development, analyses consistently revealed that boys and girls do not differ in early quantitative and mathematical ability. These findings indicate that boys and girls are equally equipped to reason about mathematics during early childhood.
Friday, August 10, 2018
No gender differences in early math cognition.
Kersey et al. have examined data from more than 500 children ranging in age from 6 months to 8 years across several tests of numerosity, counting, and elementary mathematics concepts. They found no differences in mathematical performance between boys and girls in any of the ages tested, suggesting that gender differences in STEM representation are unlikely to be due to intrinsic differences in cognitive ability.