Research Myth 9: Boys Are Better At Maths Than Girls

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John Dabell

I trained as a primary school teacher 25 years ago, starting my career in London and then I taught in a range of schools in the Midlands. In between teaching jobs, I worked as an Ofsted inspector (no hate mail please!), national in-service provider, project...
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Do girls perform more poorly than boys at maths?

There is still a stereotype that boys are naturally better at maths than girls which is simply untrue.

Girls are not inherently less good at maths than boys. Yes, in lots of studies boys do achieve better scores than girls, but in other studies girls perform better, but the differences aren’t biological but social and cultural.

In general, gender differences in maths performance are small and as Dr Ansari says in this video, “all the research that we know of shows us there are more gender similarities than there are gender differences.”


Professor Paola Sapienza found “The so-called gender gap in maths skills seems to be at least partially correlated to environmental factors” and the gap doesn’t exist in more gender-equal societies. Boys outperform girls in maths in cultures where there is an expectation that boys are stronger than girls in maths (and other skill areas).

It is crucial therefore we grow the awareness around gender similarities and that everyone has a maths brain (see Jo Boaler’s video) so we can avoid the ‘boys are better at maths’ mindset which is creating a gender gap in STEM subjects.


Read the full Research Myths series.

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