Math and sex update

Dr. Janet Hyde (see also) was lead author of a research study that examined differences in how boys and girls perform in math. She has a long history of seeking to demonstrate that the so-called “gender” specific psychological differences between men and women are virtually non-existent. That this idea violates most people’s common sense experience is explained by nuture, not nature. It’s about proving there is no difference between the sexes that can be accounted for biologically – it’s all about the patriarchy social conditioning.

Among other things Dr. Hyde’s report found (much more at this link) is that boys are more variable in math skills than girls:

…their paper does mention that in the 99th percentile, they found the boys:girls ratio to be 2.06:1 (and for the 95th percentile, it was 1.45:1). Incidentally, these numbers roughly agree with Figure 2 in La Griffe du Lion‘s text about these matters. But Hyde et al. were very careful that this particular result didn’t get into the media.

…It’s been more than three years when Larry Summers introduced the width of the statistical distributions into the public debate but when you make a Google search, you will see that 99% of people still don’t seem to get the point. Most people in the world are just stunningly stupid.

If you’re one of them and you’re disturbed by all these differences and you want to hear something encouraging about ordinary people, let me tell you that it can be calculated that if you pick a random man and a random woman, the woman will be g-smarter than the man in 45% of the cases. You need to calculate a somewhat tough integral to get this result. As Barbie correctly said, math class is tough. ;-)

However, Dr. Hyde’s public pronouncements never mention this finding. She told Reuters,

“there aren’t gender differences anymore in math performance” that could account for the pre-eminence of men in strongly quantitative careers such as math and physics

The discrepancy between Dr. Hyde’s results and her rhetoric is suspicious. The high variability of boys’ math performance could entirely account for the fact that the sex of those employed in high-end math and science careers is preponderantly male. What scientist would want to suppress this possibly inherent difference as a matter of public policy? One who does not like the conclusion.

Here’s more on why seemingly small distribution differences at the high end of the scale are an important question: Small Differences in Variability of Ability Translate Into Big Differences 3-4 Std. Deviations from Mean

Assume that to be successful and get tenure in the math department at Harvard or MIT, you have to be 3-4 standard deviations above average, which is what Larry Summers said – “We’re talking about people who are three and a half, four standard deviations above the mean….”

In that case, wouldn’t we expect females to be under-represented, as the experiment above demonstrates, where “men” represent 77% of those observations 4 or more standard deviations above the mean?

We would, if we didn’t have an agenda.

Several related TOC posts on this topic may be found here.

Sex, math, and a feminist poll

Link was broken. Fixed. Sorry.
Boys’ Math Scores Hit Highs and Lows

This is not news, despite the implication contained in “researchers are now taking notice”

Here’s a TOC reference from 2006. The book referenced was published in 2002. The information therein has apparently only just come to the attention of the University of Wisconsin and the University of California, Berkeley.

See also.

Update 8:05PM

Larry Summers’ revenge

A Reuters story quoted the lead author of a study in Science magazine, Janet Hyde, as saying that “there aren’t gender differences anymore in math performance” that could account for the pre-eminence of men in strongly quantitative careers such as math and physics.

Her own study refutes that statement.

It’s a wonder they can think at all

I’ve written a fair bit on this topic in the past, and I recommend reading all the posts linked here. These are good background and decent posts. I am fond of this sentence, “[Harvard President Larry] Summers has offered obeisance to all the Feminists offended by his remarks regarding the factors possibly affecting penetration of females into the ivory towers of hard science.

But enough feminist-baiting self-indulgence, today’s item is the recent confirmation that Larry Summers, formerly President of Harvard University was just as misogynist as NOW claimed when he had the temerity to ask a question about “under-representation” of female scientists at elite universities. He asked, based on a significant body of supportive scientific research, whether the phenomenon could be due partly to “innate” differences between men and women. He deserved to be fired by the Harvard Humanities faculty: Math study finds girls are just as good as boys

Research of this sort, for which the archetype is the “wage-gap” between men an women, always make me wonder about premises. In this case, just reading the story revealed that this study does not actually demonstrate anything meaningful.

As Hyde and her colleagues looked across the data for states’ testing, they found something they didn’t expect: In most states they reviewed, and at most grade levels, there weren’t any questions that involved complex problem-solving, an ability needed to succeed in high levels of science and math. If tests don’t assess these reasoning skills, they may not be taught, putting American students at a disadvantage to students in other countries with more challenging tests, the researchers said.

I take that back. The meaningful part of the study is that boys and girls are equally ill-served by government schools. What math is taught there is generally disconnected from any actual accomplishment in science or math. It’s a wonder we have any mathematicians or scientists of either sex.

The damage doesn’t stop at failure to prepare either sex for careers in math and science. You may not like math, or desire a career that involves math, but taking math courses that do not expose you to critical thinking skills is not just a waste of time, it is a failure an order of magnitude greater. To paraphrase the philosopher Paul Simon, “It’s a wonder they can think at all.”