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April 26, 2024

Widening Gender Gap: Girls Fall Behind Boys in Math Scores Post-Pandemic

America's students experienced a significant setback in math achievement according to the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores, often referred to as the "Nation's Report Card". The 2022 results, the first major assessment since the pandemic began, paint a concerning picture: math scores for fourth and eighth graders have dropped to their lowest levels in a decade.
The decline is substantial. Compared to 2020, average scores for 13-year-olds fell by a disheartening 9 points. The recent decline in math scores (see chart below) seems to have begun even before the pandemic, leaving the latest scores just 5 points above the level observed in 1973, but 14 points lower than the level observed in 2012. myQBook
While the downward trend affected all students, the decline appears to be more severe in girls’ scores compared to boys’ scores. While girls on average scored 1 point higher than boys in 1973, they scored 7 points lower than boys in 2023.
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While data on the exact reasons for this disparity is still emerging, research suggests several potential factors. One study suggests that girls may be more adversely affected by the isolation of remote learning, as they often rely on social interactions and peer support to thrive academically. The lack of in-person interaction during the pandemic may have hindered their ability to engage fully in their studies and collaborate with peers, leading to decreased motivation and academic performance.
Another factor to consider is the potential for a wider impact of pandemic-related stress and anxiety on girls. Studies have shown girls are more likely to experience these issues, which could negatively affect their academic engagement and performance.
The consequences of this widening gender gap are concerning. Strong math skills are crucial for success in many fields, and falling behind could limit girls' career opportunities in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) related fields.
Addressing this issue requires a multifaceted approach. Educators may need to implement targeted strategies to support girls in math classrooms, fostering a more engaging and inclusive learning environment. Additionally, providing targeted resources such as myQBook and mentorship programs specifically geared towards girls in STEM fields could be instrumental in reigniting their interest and confidence in math.
Furthermore, efforts to promote gender equity in education must extend beyond the immediate crisis response and address the systemic barriers that contribute to disparities in academic outcomes. This includes challenging gender stereotypes, promoting inclusive curricula and teaching practices, and creating supportive learning environments that empower girls to excel academically and pursue their passions without constraints.
The pandemic undeniably disrupted education for everyone. However, the data from the Nation's Report Card underscores the need to be particularly vigilant about the achievement gap between girls and boys in math. By recognizing this disparity and taking steps to address it, we can ensure all students, regardless of gender, have the opportunity to excel in this critical subject.
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