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Beyond the math study

Re “No gender difference found in math scores,” July 25

While it appears that girls and boys show no significant differences in mathematics achievement on various standardized tests, there is a difference in the number of women who choose further learning in mathematically based fields. Women represent close to 57% of the nation’s college population, yet fewer than one-third major in science, technology, engineering or mathematics. Compare that with 41% of male students who choose such majors. Research shows women have the ability but lack the interest. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the fastest-growing and highest-paying job opportunities require mathematical savvy. More men than women are prepared and motivated for these opportunities.

I applaud our girls’ abilities in mathematics. I believe the primary reason we teach mathematics is to expand the capacity to think creatively and analytically. Mathematics is conceptualizing, understanding and using critical thinking to understand novel issues and solve unique problems. We want our young people of both genders to want to do mathematics.

Pamela S. Clute

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Palm Desert

The writer is a mathematics and education lecturer at UC Riverside.

I am curious about the omission of one part of the article from the journal Science:

“Again, the effort uncovered little difference, as did a comparison of how well boys and girls did on questions requiring complex problem solving.

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“What the researchers did find, though, was a disturbing lack of questions that tested this ability. In fact, they found none whatsoever on the state assessments for NCLB, requiring them to turn to another data source for this part of the study.

“What this suggests ... is that if teachers are gearing instruction toward these assessments, the performance of both boys and girls in complex problem solving may drop in the future, leaving them ill-prepared for careers in math, science and engineering.”

This is another piece of evidence that in our rush to improve standardized-test scores, we are losing what is really most important about education.

To leave out this side effect of testing uncovered by the study is unfortunate.

Laurens Thurman

Redlands


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