Study: Girls Can Solve Math Problems
Our children’s math abilities are somehow intertwined with their higher-level problem-solving skills. This is especially true of girls, who benefit from having higher math skills and a strong understanding of abstract math words than boys do. A new study just out supports these findings and adds to our already well-established knowledge that girls can solve complex math problems — an fact that is often called into question by society.
Based on data collected from over 2,400 children, the research found that girls who scored highly on a math test enjoyed greater sense of autonomy and had higher self-esteem and test scores in the areas of algebra and geometry. In the study, published in the journal Developmental Science, the researchers also found that girls who scored lower on math tests simply performed better on other types of tasks.
The upshot? Study author Cecilia Giménez of the University of Torino suggested that it is because boys are supposed to be the “problem solvers” in their families, so having problems in math is associated with failure. When boys are praised for having higher-level problem-solving skills, however, their parents may be less likely to suggest that their boys should work on remedial math skills in order to learn the mistakes they’ve made.
“In the context of family education, efforts should go beyond just teaching children to express their feelings, and also include teaching children how to solve math problems,” Giménez and co-author Anne Geissler, of Cornell University, wrote in the study. “In contrast, addressing children’s abstract problems requires providing teachers with material they understand. . . . As a consequence, any low-scoring kids will probably find it more difficult to address abstract math problem when they enter [a] classroom.”
To be clear, we’re not saying that teachers should push kids to solve problems. But the fact that parents are often reminded to encourage their children to think beyond their own needs should encourage more parents to encourage their children to think beyond what they were actually doing during the test. It’s also good to encourage kids to ask for help or give feedback on what was wrong with their math exercise, and having a child practice math questions at home instead of completing a test in a traditional classroom can really hone those skills.