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I'm interested in the subject of sex differences in math learning & achievement. (I think the whole idea that Blacks, Hispanics, and Women all Learn The Same Way is ludicrous on the face of it.) I don't personally have a problem with the idea that men may have a biological advantage when it comes to learning math (or to very high achievement in math, I should probably say). Nor do I have a problem with the idea that if they do have an advantage, it has to do with spatial ability. I find this notion pretty interesting, as a matter of fact, and have now spoken to two women with degrees in mathematics who went out and learned how to draw specifically to increase their spatial ability. (When I finally learned to draw last summer, something I had wanted to do all my life, I was in the class for about 5 seconds before I realized: this is math. More on that another day.) Anyway, it may or may not be true that spatial reasoning has something to do with high achievement in mathematics, and it may or may not be true that men tend to be better at spatial tasks. As far as I can tell, the evidence for these two propositions is reasonably strong at this point, though I could be wrong. I'm not doing a review of the literature here. What I do know is that: I want to learn real math whether I'm good at rotating figures inside my head or not. (I stink at rotating figures inside my head.) I certainly do not want the NCTM to decide, on my behalf, that I need to learn a kind of math that isn't really math, because I'm a woman, so therefore I'm out of the running for the standard deductive math (white) boys and (white) men get to know. Furthermore, if the ability to solve certain spatial tasks is useful to learning and understanding math, then I want to develop spatial ability. I want to learn deductive math, and I want to 'remediate' anything in my own way of thinking and learning that will help me to do that.
-- CatherineJohnson - 02 Jun 2005 Back to: Main Page.