Employers who are continually looking for talented people for fields requiring skills in math now have a new source of promising recruits: women.

An analysis of seven million studentsí test scores from Grades 2 through 11 published last week in the journal ďScienceĒ shows no difference in math achievement between boys and girls. That flies in the face of traditional wisdom which has long held that female students were fighting long odds if they pursued academic degrees and career opportunities not only in math, but also science.

This study, funded by the National Science Foundation, shows that the prospects for women are much brighter than those old stereotypes suggest. Itís no longer valid to contend that boys are brighter than girls in these subjects. The gender gap has closed, and thatís a positive development for female students who for decades may have altered their career plans because of misconceptions.

Indeed, if thereís a gender gap at all, itís weighted against the boys. Colleges and universities are finding more numbers of male students compared to female needing help in a variety of academic disciplines, according to educational journals.

Men also lag behind in taking advantage of opportunities in higher education. The most recent statistics show 57 percent of the nationís college students are female.

The researchers, led by University of Wisconsin professor Janet Hyde, said their findings were limited by the fact that most states do not test children for complex reasoning skills. They recommended that math tests be modified to measure such skills, because they are required to obtain advanced college degrees and occupations in highly technical fields.

But even with the asterisk, this data should give math and science teachers a new tool to encourage their female students to continue their studies, and that may translate into more young adults being groomed to consider careers in engineering and physics.

Brownwood Bulletin