by Nur Zafirah Mohd Faudzi
We often heard that females always study harder than males resulting in a better examination result for them. Males play a lot while studying, showing their unseriousness to perform in their studies. Are these true? Do females are the ones who always perform and not males? Is there by any chance that males may perform better than females? Let us take a look at the best figure in the world. Firstly, the best mathematician in the world was Pythagoras, the best engineer in the world was Archimedes. Both of them are males. Next, the world’s best scientist, Albert Einstein, is also a male. Males are better than females, nothing more needs explanation.
Before jumping into the main discussion, let us take a look at a few studies by past researchers in similar topics. Their studies have identified gender differences in computation skill and problem-solving performance.
A study by Armstrong (1981) shows that typically, no gender differences in achievement have been found through junior high school. However, by the end of secondary school, surprisingly, male students have higher achievement scores and are frequently reported as doing better on higher-level cognitive tasks. Thirteen-year-old females are better at computation than their male counterparts. By the end of high school, like in a drama, the situation twisted. Twelfth-grade male students show superior scores on problem-solving measures, and females have lost their advantage in computation. Does this study make sense? Feeling dissatisfied?
Okay now, let us proceed to see another research. Hyde (1990) performed a meta-analysis of 100 studies of gender differences in Mathematics performance. An analysis of trends of age revealed that in elementary and secondary school, the computation was moderately distributed. Apart from that, in primary or early secondary schooling, there were no gender differences in problem-solving. However, in the final year of secondary and college, gaps were noticed in favor of males.
The bar chart above shows the average score of 12-year-old students in Mathematics and Science. Based on the result, male students scored an average of 70.4%, while female students scored 77.1% in Mathematics. It shows a significant difference in the average score of male and female students in Mathematics which is by seven percentage points favored by the female. As for Science, male students scored an average of 71.9%, while female students scored 73.8%. It shows a slight difference of 2 percentage points favored by the female. Overall, females show higher performance in both Mathematics and Science in primary school.
Now let’s see what we got here. In the middle of secondary school, the result shows a similar trend as in primary school where female students dominated the achievement in both Mathematics and Science. The male and female students scored an average of 57.8% and 62.7% in Mathematics, 64.3% and 66.8% in Science respectively. There is a five-percentage-point gap in the average score of Mathematics and a slight difference of 2 percentage points in Science between both genders. Both favoring females. It shows that female students perform better in Mathematics and Science in the middle of secondary school.
Now we can see where these results have brought us to. Based on the results in Figure 1 and Figure 2, the performance of female students in Mathematics and Science consistently better than male students since primary school until the middle of secondary school, thus it shows that females acquire better computation and problem-solving skills than males.
But wait! It’s not the end yet. There is still a chance to prove that males can also outperform females in these subjects. The next reference was made to see whether there is any significant difference in the performance of Science and Mathematics between male and female at the end of secondary school. The average score of 100 male and 100 female 17-year-old students in Mathematics and Science is compared. The result is as in Figure 3.
The result in Figure 3 shows a surprisingly extraordinary result. The result clearly shows a contradiction of which appear in Figure 2. Based on the result, male students overscored female students in the final year of secondary school. On average, the female students scored 63.3% in Mathematics, whereas with a difference of additional two percentage points, the male students scored 65.8%. For the Science subject, the male students scored an average score of 65.3%, which is greater than female students by six percentage points. It shows that male students showed up better in both Mathematics and Science approaching the end of the secondary school upon entering the college.
Result in A Glance
Based on the analysis, it shows the same result as found by Flanagan and Hyde. It can be concluded that females acquire better computation abilities and problem-solving skill in primary school. Entering secondary school, females carry the same as or greater than males in both knowledge and skills. Along the secondary school years, males catch up with and then surpass the females in some regions of Mathematics and Science achievement. As a result, males turned out to score better than females at the end of secondary school.
In college, males beat females in subjects related to computation and problem-solving. That is why, like has been stated by Susan (1999) in the Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering, “Women have made substantial employment gains in business, law, medicine and behavioral sciences during the past generation, but there has not been a corresponding increase in the number of women engineers. Explanations for the slow progress of women in engineering fields often assume that women do not have the same level of mathematical or visual-spatial skills as men.”