Girls and boys have roughly the same average scores on state math tests, but boys more often excelled or failed, researchers reported.
The fresh research adds to the debate about gender difference in aptitude for mathematics, including efforts to explain the relative scarcity of women among professors of science, math and engineering.
In the 1970s and 1980s, studies regularly found that high- school boys tended to outperform girls. But a number of recent studies have found little difference.
The latest study, in this week’s journal Science, examined scores from seven million students who took statewide mathematics tests from grades two through 11 in 10 states between 2005 and 2007.
The researchers, from the University of Wisconsin and the University of California, Berkeley, didn’t find a significant overall difference between girls’ and boys’ scores. But the study also found that boys’ scores were more variable than those of girls. More boys scored extremely well — or extremely poorly — than girls, who were more likely to earn scores closer to the average for all students.
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