Study Finds No Biological Gender Differences in Brain Function of Children Regarding Mathematics

A new study by researchers at the University of Rochester in New York tested for gender differences in the neural processes of mathematics in young children.

The research team used functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to measure the brain activity in a group of young children ages 3 to 10 while the children were watching an educational video covering early math topics, like counting and addition. The researchers compared scans from the boys and girls to evaluate brain similarity. In addition, the team examined brain maturity by comparing the children’s scans to those taken from a group of adults who watched the same math videos.

After numerous statistical comparisons, the research team found no difference in the brain development of girls and boys. In addition, the researchers found no difference in how boys and girls processed math skills and were equally engaged while watching educational videos.

Jessica Cantlon, now the Ronald J. and Mary Ann Zdrojkowski Professor of Developmental Neuroscience at the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University and senior author on the paper, said that “science doesn’t align with folk beliefs. We see that children’s brains function similarly regardless of their gender. Typical socialization can exacerbate small differences between boys and girls that can snowball into how we treat them in science and math.”

Alyssa Kersey, now a postdoctoral scholar in the department of psychology at the University of Chicago and the lead author of the study, added that “it’s not just that boys and girls are using the math network in the same ways but that similarities were evident across the entire brain. This is an important reminder that humans are more similar to each other than we are different.”

The full study, “Gender Similarities in the Brain During Mathematics Development,” was published on the website of the journal Science of Learning. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/StudySTEM Fields


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