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  • Print publication year: 2004
  • Online publication date: June 2012

3 - A Psychobiosocial Model: Why Females Are Sometimes Greater Than and Sometimes Less Than Males in Math Achievement

Summary

We have some numbers that may surprise you, but first you need to supply some of your own. Make your best estimate in answering the following questions: What percentage of all accountants and auditors in the United States in 1983 were female? Now answer the same question for the year 2000. What about other math-intensive professions, say economists? What percentage of economists in the United States in 1983 and in 2000 were female? What about the percentage of all engineers who were female in 1983 and in 2000? Finally, is the difference in achievement scores between girls and boys much larger on tests of reading literacy or tests of mathematical literacy?

Are you fairly confident about your answers? Give yourself a “point” for each answer you supplied that is within five percentage points of the correct answer. According to the U.S. Bureau of the Census (2001), the majority of accountants and auditors in 2000 were female (56.7%), up considerably from 1983 when females made up slightly more than one-third of this profession (36.7%). The comparable values for economists in 1983 and 2000 were 37.9% and 53.3%. Surprised that these values are so high? Most people are. What about engineers? Females were 5.9% of all engineers in 1983 and still only 9.9% in 2000 – values that are probably closer to what most people estimated for all these math-intensive professions.

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