The Gender Gap In Math Starts In Kindergarten

The gender gap in math may start at kindergarten ― and preschool teachers may unintentionally play some role in it.

A study published Thursday in AERA Open, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Educational Research Association, shows that’s where the disparity in performances between boys and girls begins.

Researchers tracked more than 5,000 kids who entered kindergarten in 1998 and another group of more than 7,500 preschoolers in 2010. They found the gender gap in mathematical abilities hasn’t changed much among kids who entered kindergarten 12 years apart.

At first, the girls and boys showed equal mathematical abilities. But then a gap started to develop and in the spring of kindergarten there were more boys than girls in the highest achieving group. By third grade, the gap was present across the board and was particularly strong among the highest achievers. This latter finding is especially disturbing, the researchers said.

“Future STEM-intending students are likely to be drawn from the high end of the achievement distribution, which is why it is so troubling that we see so few high-performing female students,” said Emily Miller, an assistant professor at the Department of Mathematics, West Chester University and a co-author of the study.

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