Washington: Girls and boys start grade school with
different approaches to arithmetic problems - girls favour a slow
and accurate approach and boys a faster but more error-prone
The girls' approach gives them an early advantage, but by the end
of the sixth grade, boys had surpassed the girls, a study by the
University of Missouri says.
The study found that boys showed more preference for solving
arithmetic problems by reciting an answer from memory, whereas
girls were more likely to compute the answer by counting.
Understanding these results may help teachers and parents guide
students better, says Journal of Experimental Child Psychology.
"The observed difference in arithmetic accuracy between the sexes
may arise from a the willingness to risk being wrong by answering
from memory before one is sure of the correct answer," said Drew
Bailey, study author and a recent recipient of a Ph.D. in
psychological science from University of Missouri, according to a
"In our study, we found that boys were more likely to call out
answers than girls, even though they were less accurate early in
school. Over time, though, this practice at remembering answers
may have allowed boys to surpass girls in accuracy," Bailey added.
The study followed approximately 300 children as they progressed
from first to sixth grade. In the first and second grades, the
boys' tendency to give an answer quickly led to more answers in
total, but also more wrong answers.
Girls, on the other hand, were right more often, but responded
more slowly and to fewer questions. By sixth grade, the boys were
answering more problems and getting more correct.
"Developing mathematical skill may be part 'practice makes
perfect' and part 'perfect makes practice,'" Bailey said.
"Attempting more answers from memory gives risk-takers more
practice, which may eventually lead to improvements in accuracy.
It also is possible that children who are skilled at certain
strategies are more likely to use them and therefore acquire more