Impulsivity and Math Achievement
Could impulsivity lead to better math skills in children? Could this impulsivity be a reason behind the historic gender gap in K-12 STEM education? In the past, boys often scored higher on standardized testing in math than their female peers. The reason for the gender gap in mathematical performance may be based on a tendency towards impulsivity, according to a new study
by Drew H. Bailey, Andrew Littlefield, and David C. Geary. The report, published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology
, found that boys were more likely to make errors, more likely to call out answers in class, and more likely to answer from memory. The study found that girls were more deliberate, less likely to answer in class, more likely to count out on their fingers, and less likely to commit answers to memory. As a result, students who were less concerned about making errors and participated more, performed better in math.
The takeaway from this study is not a comment on the nature/nurture debate in education, but an insight into how learning styles affect math achievement. In this blog, Carolyn Kaemmer has already pointed out that the “gender gap” has been mostly erased on the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). While the new study found a tendency for female students to be deliberate and male students to be impulsive, individual learning styles will vary across the spectrum. This study shows that students should be encouraged to actively participate in class and not to fear answering a question incorrectly. Consider Dr. David Dockterman’s blog entry about trial-and-error, or “loop learning,” where failure is an engine for success. Of course, taking chances isn’t enough. Managing math anxiety and perseverance are also essential behavior ingredients for learning.
What do you think? Are these different learning styles the reason for the gender gap? Share your thoughts.