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Right - Primary aged girls and Maths

(67 Posts)
CatKisser Tue 26-Aug-14 20:26:03

I've been looking at the list of children I'm teaching in September and once again, the highest achieving children in Maths are all boys. Every single one. Don't get me wrong, they're nice boys, but I'm so frustrated and really wondering why this is the case.

Two things stand out to me.

1) At parents' evenings, its crazy how many mums tell me "she's not great at Maths, I never was either. She's more into her writing." And they're talking about intelligent girls with bags of potential.

2) I find many of the girls I've taught struggle when it comes to investigations and open ended challenges. It comes with practice, but I do get the impression many of them would just prefer to have a nice page of sums where they can get a nice set of green ticks...

I was talking to a colleague today who claimed it's simply the fact that girls and boys are wired differently, which I totally disagree with, but I felt I couldn't give a coherent argument in return.

Can anyone, teachers or not, shed any light on this or offer any comment? For the record, I'm very proud of my Maths teaching and put a lot of time into making interesting lessons with a wide range of challenge, and our results are great.

PenguinsIsSleepDeprived Tue 26-Aug-14 20:33:38

What age do you teach? I don't think that there is masses of difference in my daughter's class - but she is only reception.

SevenZarkSeven Tue 26-Aug-14 20:36:31

It's a self fulfilling prophecy. The parents tell the children what they are good at and what they are bad at, and what they should like and what they shouldn't, and that gives children a steer - which some will overcome just by having the sort of personality that shrugs that stuff off a bit or just really liking something or whatever, or still.

I have heard people say to my children "maths is boring isn't it" the same sort of people who say "yuck brocolli" etc etc and I just think why do you say stuff like that? WHY? Grrrrr.

Having said that I'm sure I give my kids lots of cues that I don't even realise I'm giving.

So yes to point 1.

Point 2 dunno. I always liked workbooks and things grin I do like a good tick and maybe a star at the end grin that's fairly universal though isn't it? Socialisation / toys - girls boys being more "you do this with this and that's the end of it" whereas boys are more open ended eg lego just build whatever you feel? No idea really. I don't think we can know whether things are nature / nurture in our society as it's so strongly gendered. There is the whole thing that I've forgotten what it's called about noticing things that reinforce what you think and god knows we all have enough preconceptions.

I wish people wouldn't clue kids in about stuff so strongly. Arguably this is a huge part of the whole problem with learning not being "cool" in the UK generally. The adults need to adjust their attitudes.

SevenZarkSeven Tue 26-Aug-14 20:37:47

So in some other cultures maths is a "girls" subject and they excel at it and beat the boys.

So tell your mate that maybe.

SevenZarkSeven Tue 26-Aug-14 20:39:20

2008 but relevant

MrsPnut Tue 26-Aug-14 20:40:28

My dd is 8 and is good at maths but she doubts herself and thinks she can't do it. We do encourage her and we tell her that she does know.
We spend time doing lots of basics at home and in the car so hopefully something will click eventually.

TheSameBoat Tue 26-Aug-14 20:40:57

When I was a teacher I didn't find that girls weren't as high achieving. In fact if anything the girls performed better across the board.

I did get the impression though that girls were expected by other teachers to be better at literacy and that whilst girls were generally expected to knuckle under, if a boy "engaged" it was encouraged to a higher degree.

Add that to the general belief that people are either intuitive (literacy and art) or logical (maths and science) and that many parents most definitely have a gendered view of these things and you have a gap already.

CatKisser Tue 26-Aug-14 20:41:56

Penguins Year six. How interesting you've observed similar in a reception class!
Seven Interesting link to "girls'" and boys'" toys - definitely hadn't considered that. I want to mention this to our staff and see what their take on it is. I have a feeling they won't be that interested as the results are already good, but I'm going to see anyway.
I totally agree with being "cool" not being compatible with education. I taught a girl last year who could have achieved so much more than she did, but she really played on the "I'm blonde me, I'm so dizzy, I don't really know what's going on." Vair frustrating.

CatKisser Tue 26-Aug-14 20:43:30

Thanks SameBoat I totally agree with the Literacy comment. It's most seen as a more female subject, while it's apparently always a challenge to get the boys engaged.

SevenZarkSeven Tue 26-Aug-14 20:45:38

hmm tried googling and can't find out which countries maths is a "girls" subject in, sorry.

Hope I didn't make it up grin

TheSameBoat Tue 26-Aug-14 20:47:15

Seven, I think it was Japan, I've heard it before so I don't think you dreamed it!

17leftfeet Tue 26-Aug-14 20:50:24

I volunteer at a primary school working with yrs 4,5&6 supporting numeracy

Dd 1 is currently yr 8

I don't find the top groups to be boy heavy at all and the groups requiring additional support are a 50/50 split

In dd's year, 8 children got level 6 maths, 5 of them were boys so not totally skewed -the overall top mark went to a girl

Ours is very much a middle class school -is that what makes the difference possibly?

SevenZarkSeven Tue 26-Aug-14 20:52:40

Well my children are little, one in infants one just started juniors.
I love maths and took my study a reasonably long way and have always talked to them about how interesting it is etc. I would far rather sit down with them and teach them some maths / write some problems for them than read to them.

They both say they love maths and they are good at it - so far! I have also told them about family members who are good at maths and the jobs we do because of it and why they are good jobs.

I'm probably heinously neglecting geography or something but what can you do!

The idea that they might get squashed down in a subject which there is a lot of family doing (so they might be able to do too IYSWIM), and leads into good jobs, and is a really enjoyable satisfying thing to do, makes me sad really.

When people say maths is dull I have to grind my teeth! Lots of men think maths is dull / difficult too though - aren't they saying that to their sons?

CatKisser Tue 26-Aug-14 20:55:00

Hmm, I suppose we're in a fairly affluent little village, sounds similar to yours, 17leftfeet
It might be the case we need to look at our ethos towards maths as a school and be honest about any issues that arise.

EndOfPrimary Tue 26-Aug-14 20:57:58

But isn't it the same in reverse for boys and literacy?

Isn't it seen as fine for boys to be behind in reading and writing (by their parents) because they're boys?

SevenZarkSeven Tue 26-Aug-14 20:58:54

If you google there is absolutely loads on the topic, catkisser.

There is also this interesting thing that if they told girls that maths was hard, before a maths test, they did worse than if nothing was said. A lot of the articles talk about confidence. I think it's more complex than that but I would absolutely refute the idea that girls are "wired" to be poor at maths while boys are "wired" to be good at it. And even, EVEN, if there was a difference on average (nature/nurture) then acting on that basis is unfair on all of those boys & girls who do not fit the mould.

Children should be given the opportunities and encouragement to try everything, find out what they like and have aptitude for, irrespective of whether it fits a stereotype. Boys who don't fit the stereotype have a bad time also, it's no good for anyone.

CatKisser Tue 26-Aug-14 20:59:52

Certainly not at our school, End

CatKisser Tue 26-Aug-14 21:01:20

Thanks for the google tip - I should have realised there'd be lots written about this. It's been good hearing people's thoughts/points of view here though.

MasqueradeWaltzer Tue 26-Aug-14 21:03:53

Well, top tables for maths in my dds' school are 50/50 boys and girls.

For literacy, however, they are ALL girls.

Chrysanthemum5 Tue 26-Aug-14 21:04:20

There's been loads of research on this. Basically it comes down to self efficacy - girls are told maths is not for them, and they lose confidence. Similar happens with boys and writing/reading.

CatKisser Tue 26-Aug-14 21:05:19

Interesting, Masquerade. I don't have top tables, as such, but my highest achieving readers and writers are a pretty even split.

TheBuskersDog Tue 26-Aug-14 21:06:26

Definitely agree with your second point, I did an enrichment group with the higher achieving children last year, lots of problem solving, logic, puzzles etc. Nearly all the boys embraced the challenge, trying to work out what they needed to do and then going on to try and find the answers, having another go when they were wrong. Most of the girls didn't like not knowing the way to solve them and having to think for themselves whereas if I had given them a page of sums to answer they would have been perfectly happy, they don't like not getting things right and complained it was too hard without really trying.

SevenZarkSeven Tue 26-Aug-14 21:09:02

Why do think there was that difference,buskers?

TheSameBoat Tue 26-Aug-14 21:14:48

BuskersDog. I can certainly relate to that, even as a grown up. I think it has to do with having the confidence to think outside the box, and knowing that it is ok to screw up.

cowmop Tue 26-Aug-14 21:16:31

Dd1 is just going into year 6, her problem with maths is she panics. She is capable and is working at end of yr 7 level, but constantly says she can't do it and is rubbish at it. To the point where you'll ask her to write 600 and she is questioning how many zeroes! Her teacher even said to me "you say the word test and see her go visibly pale."

I think in her case it is the black and white of it that panics her. She enjoys English as there is so much more give and take to it in her view, but sees maths as a right or a wrong and as a bossy 10 year old, boy, does she not like being wrong!

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