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TIMSS: gender inequities still exist. [Third International Mathematics and Science Study] .

While there is little difference between fourth- and eighth-grade boys and girls when it comes to math and science knowledge, the performance gap swings heavily in favor of boys by high school, according to the most recent installment of the Third International Mathematics and Science Study.

The gulf between boys and girls in math and science has been a problem for years, but what the TIMSS survey shows is that the gap has closed between the sexes at the lower grades to the point of being virtually nonexistent. By the time students reach high school, however, girls tend to shy away from math and science in part because fewer efforts are made to motivate them in these areas, according to experts. Boys at the high school level still show more academic prowess in math and science than girls, but the TIMSS report shows that that gap, while still significant, is slowly closing.

Maureen Zuck, principal Of the Beachwood Elementary School in Beachwood, N.J., says that the key to improving the balance between boys and girls when it comes to math and science lies in reaching the students early. The results of the TIMSS study did not surprise her, she says, because by the time girls reach high school, their confidence level in these subjects wanes.

"It's almost too late to address these concerns by the fifth grade," says Zuck, who has 30 years of experience as an educator in her background. "Girls and boys need to believe that we are empowering them, that we have provided the skills and strategies for them to succeed. They have to believe in themselves."

Zuck and Jane MacDonald, the school's supervisor of instruction, studied how to close the gender gap in math for fourth graders in their school and discovered that girls tend to do well in cooperative group activities that develop discourse and communication skills. They also found that when called upon in class, girls tend to ask more questions, not because they did not understand the material but because they were seeking a better understanding of the problem.

The school's findings recently helped it receive a $5,000 grant from math manipulatives company Digi-Block

"Research has shown that teachers tend to call upon boys more in class, partly because time is tight and teachers need to move the lessons along," MacDonald says. "This is something we've worked on at our school, to have teachers call on girls more."

In addition, the school also implemented "family education nights in math," where parents and their children participate in problem-solving math games. *
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Author:Branch, Al
Publication:District Administration
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2002
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