It is often observed that girls do not perform as well as boys in mathematics. This difference is often overstated and it’s cause is often highly debated. Many people have suggested that the basis for this difference is essentially biological.
It is now well established that a society’s attitude toward gender will significantly affect the performance of its girls in mathematics. That was the result of a study described in the May 30, 2008 edition of Science (available only to subscribers online) in an article called “Culture, Gender and Math.” That study attempted to analyze the cause of the “gender gap” (the difference between the scores of boys and girls) in mathematics. The conclusion of this comprehensive study is that “Social conditioning and gender biased environments can have a very large effect on test performance.”
The study examined cultural attitudes regarding women in various countries and compared them to math achievements of girls in those same countries. It found that the gender gap in math tends to disappear in more gender-equal societies.
The authors of the study commented that the math gender gap has been narrowing over time in the United States.
These conclusions dovetail well with the concerns raised by Mary Pipher, in her book, Reviving Ophelia.