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July 31, 2008


Are Boys Better Than Girls in Math?

by deirdrewalsh

As a kid, I was never good at math. Yet, now I find myself working for high-tech company National Instruments surrounded by enginerds.  I wish I knew then what I know now – Girls can be good at math.

This week, researchers at the University of Wisconsin and UC Berkeley reported in the journal Science that boys are not better than girls in math and science.  This conclusion challenges the argument that female students perform lower than men in science and math; therefore, there is a shortage of women in technical careers.

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, “The researchers examined extensive performance assessments of more than 7 million students, carried out by 10 states as required by the No Child Left Behind legislation. They found that, in standardized tests, the differences between the average math scores of boys and girls in grades 2-11 were statistically insignificant.”  This is much different than studies performed 15 years ago that showed high school girls were falling 50 points behind boys on the math section of the SAT.

ABC World News had a great segment on this topic and showed female students in New Jersey using LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT Powered by NI LabVIEW in the classroom to learn about robotics.  I’m so proud to work for a company, like NI, which helps improve the world from kindergarten to rocket science. (Yes, I’ve drank the kool-aid).

This past April, I had the opportunity to attend the FIRST Robotics competition in Atlanta.  For those of you unfamiliar with FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), it’s an organization founded by inventor Dean Kamen (yes, the Segway guy) to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology.  National Instruments annouced at the eventthat we would be supplying the new controller as well as the software used to program these robots in the 2009 competition.

Here is a quote from one of my heros at NI, VP of Academic Relations Ray Almgren, “We must inspire today’s students to become tomorrow’s engineers and scientists. FIRST offers industry and academia alike the opportunity to get students of all ages excited about math, science and technology.  Through the collaboration of FIRST, LEGO and National Instruments, we are providing students with the latest technology that real-world scientists and engineers are using in their applications and that helps students grow and nurture their passion for learning.”  Gives me chills.

Anyway, one of the highlights of the trip was watching an all girls team compete with my engineering friend Emilie Kopp (@iemilie on Twitter).  We both got teary eyed as we watched these cute girls dressed in all pink destroy the competition.

While I might not be able to get in a time machine, travel back to 5th grade, and change my attitude about math, I’m at least happy I get to experience moments like this and know that my work is helping changing the future.

Click HERE to watch the ABC News Video.

1 Comment Post a comment
  1. Emilie
    Aug 22 2008

    Indeed, I cried when I saw how excited these girls were about an engineering competition. But then again, I sobbed when I saw a League of Their Own; so it’s expected.

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