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All the News Fit to Interpret

Last week, Science Magazine published a short, data dense, article "Gender Similarities Characterize Math Performance." (Unfortunately it is behind a paywall.) It's a nice article summarizing the national data and looking at data from those states who report by gender (grumpy side bar: ALL states are required to report their results by gender and by race/ethnicity; but guess what; there are no consequences if you don’t). The article concludes "for grades 2 to 11, the general population no longer shows a gender difference in math skills."

It's a well done piece, as I would expect from work done by Janet Hyde and Marcia Linn; but it's not earth shattering. But it is getting a lot of coverage and the differences in terms of what is covered and how, are, to say the least, interesting:

Here's the Wall Street Journal's headline "Boys' Math Scores Hit Highs and Lows". Did I mention the Science article concluded "for grades 2 to 11, the general population no longer shows a gender difference in math skills?"

The Wall Street Journal goes on to say:

"One measure of a top score is achieving the "99th percentile" -- scoring in the top 1% of all students. Boys were significantly more likely to hit this goal than girls. In Minnesota, for example, 1.85% of white boys in the 11th grade hit the 99th percentile, compared with 0.9% of girls -- meaning there were more than twice as many boys among the top scorers than girls."

Guess they missed that part about slightly more Asian American girls than Asian American boys scoring above the 99th percentile.

The New York Times' headline "Math Scores Show No Gap for Girls, Study Finds" is much better; but check out the first paragraph.

"Three years after the president of Harvard, Lawrence H. Summers, got into trouble for questioning women’s “intrinsic aptitude” for science and engineering — and 16 years after the talking Barbie doll proclaimed that “math class is tough” — a study paid for by the National Science Foundation has found that girls perform as well as boys on standardized math tests."

Ah Larry Summers, will you always be with us?

CNN has, in my biased opinion, has the best headline: "Study: Girls equal to boys in math skills" and the best coverage. While they too lead with Barbie; their lead is oh I don't know, a little more affirmative: "Sixteen years after Barbie dolls declared, "Math class is tough!" girls are proving that, at math, they are just as tough as boys."

Interestingly, stuff about the gender gap on the math section of the SAT and on the ACT is mentioned both by the Times and CNN but that is nowhere to be found in the article. This isn't surprising. The article is meticulously researched, The Times' conclusion that "The SAT is taken primarily by seniors bound for college, and since more girls than boys go to college, about 100,000 more girls than boys take the test, including lower-achieving girls who bring down the girls’ average score." is not.

The next time there is a report out about women and STEM, let's have a contest to see who can predict the type of coverage it will receive in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and CNN. Oh never mind, that's a bad idea—it's too easy.


And the beat goes on; check out the Onion's view of the article:


(you all know the Onion yes?)

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