Swimsuits and math tests

So, I’ve written a little bit about gender and math before.   There’s really quite solid evidence that the bulk of the math performance gap between males and females can be explained by socialization (as for whether it accounts for the full 100%, that still seems up for debate).  Among the most interesting findings in this regard, is that when you make females aware of the negative stereotypes of gender and math, they perform worse (same effects happens with minorities on tests of academic performance).

Anyway, caught just a few minutes in the car the other day of an interview on Dianne Rehm with the author of Cinderella ate my Daughter (damn, I love that title– I think this is going in my reading queue).  I’m not planning on breaking Sarah’s heart when she’s a little older, but she’s going to have to really, really want a princess party before I give in on that one.  Anyway, on the show, Peggy Orenstein mentioned a fascinating study I had not previously heard about.  Apparently, they had teen boys and girls go to a dressing room and try on a sweater or a swimsuit before taking a math test.  Did you guess the results?  For the boys, it didn’t matter what they tried on;  they’re performance was the same.  For the girls, trying on a swimsuit led to lower math performance.   That’s depressing and tells us we’re really doing something wrong with how we raise our daughters and address gender issues in this country.  Also, don’t let your daughters go swimsuit shopping before math tests.

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