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Gender Differences in Children’s Arithmetic Performance Are Accounted for by Gender Differences in Language Abilities


Studies have shown that female children, on average, consistently outperform male children in arithmetic. In the research reported here, 1,556 pupils (8 to 11 years of age) from urban and rural regions in the greater Beijing area completed 10 cognitive tasks. Results showed that girls outperformed boys in arithmetic tasks (i.e., simple subtraction, complex multiplication), as well as in numerosity-comparison, number-comparison, number-series-completion, choice reaction time, and word-rhyming tasks. Boys outperformed girls in a mental rotation task. Controlling for scores on the word-rhyming task eliminated gender differences in arithmetic, whereas controlling for scores on numerical-processing tasks (number comparison, numerosity estimation, numerosity comparison, and number-series completion) and general cognitive tasks (choice reaction time, Raven's Progressive Matrices, and mental rotation) did not. These results suggest that girls' advantage in arithmetic is likely due to their advantage in language processing.

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