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There’s an interesting possibility here

So, someone wrote about this 50 years ago. The problem still remains:

An article about a concept dubbed “maths anxiety” made waves in the 1970s when it was published by a New York women’s magazine. Reading about the phenomenon in the obituary pages of The New York Times last week after its author, Sheila Tobias, died was a reminder of just how little has changed since. Her article and subsequent book is as relevant now as it was back then.

Possibly the analysis was in fact wrong back then? Perhaps mathematical talent – for which read advanced understanding – is in fact unequally distributed across the testosterone to oestrogen spectrum?

We know this is true at the very extremes of the spectrum – at both ends males predominate. That population of those just bright enough to keep breathing but little more is predominantly male, as is that very highest reach of the IQ scale.

Perhaps something similar might be true of mathematical understanding? Not to exclusionary levels, but preponderances?

Feeling jittery around maths is a “serious handicap”, which tends to affect the careers of smart female students much more than their male peers, Tobias argued decades ago. The perception that complicated maths is best left to the boys has barely shifted since, a point that matters because – as Liz Truss pointed out when she was the education secretary – maths A-level is the “only A-level with a distinct earnings premium of 10pc”.

Possibly, as the man said, the fault is not in the environment but ourselves?

The European Central Bank (ECB) has hardly helped matters in the past week. According to a blog from ECB economists, women believe prices rise faster than men because they do most of the shopping and prefer “round numbers”. The central bank, which said its research was designed to challenge stereotypes, said men cared more about house prices, cars and other transport costs, while women worried more about the weekly food shop.

There also being another explanation for that – salience. Supermarkets know this well. Folk check the prices – keep in their heads the prices of – a limited set of things. So, that’s where the price competition is focused. That’s also what the supermarkets put on the back wall of the store – so you’ve got to walk through all their other goodies to get to those things where there’s fierce price competition.

Exactly what those things are varies by society. Milk, gallons of, seems to be one for Americans. Other societies have some set of similar basics which housewives (to be sexist about it) have in their heads. That’s where price competition is focused. These things may not in fact be true, in the ethereal sense of being righteoulsy so. But supermarket competition is focused on those things in any particular society – the mental price map of the median shopper – so it is true in those societies.

Oh, and the male/female gap? Food prices do change more often – both up and down – than those in the economy in general.

And the error is here:

The Government’s social mobility tsar even said earlier this year that girls do not study physics at school because they would rather not do the “hard maths”. As Penny Pennington, the boss of Fortune 500 finance firm Edward Jones, put it in an interview with Fortune last week: “There are many women who say stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and maths – not my thing.” But women have been told from an early age that this isn’t their thing. Many would surely be saying something quite different had they grown up surrounded by a different narrative.

It’s that word “surely”. Why? There are male and female differences. It’s not wholly and entirely obvious that such differences do not extend to such things as mathematical ability – on average, of course – just as they do with height, weight or emotional intelligence. That the diffusion of the ability across the population is greater than the average difference means that any individual could be at any point on the distribution, but we’d still see preponderances and probability distributions.

Hmm, perhaps that’s it. Feminists just don’t understand the maths here?

27 thoughts on “There’s an interesting possibility here”

  1. If women are more caring and emotionally focused than men, and few feminists would argue that they aren’t, then they can hardly also be more hard edged logical as well.

  2. Society has no need of women to do this stuff, we have more than enough blokes who can do it, it’s just vanity for the women concerned. We do, however need more replacement citizens. Just sayin’.

  3. I’ve known some brilliant female mathematicians including one who finished her PhD in less than 12 months, turning in a thesis that had more than one significant new result every page, and then vanishing into spook land where her skills were much in demand. I’ve also come across a female shop assistant who needed a calculator to multiple a price by 10. It’s the usual spectrum of ability.

    There is definitely an idea, held by men as well as women, that maths is hard which puts many people off, probably because it’s been taught so badly for decades, often by teachers who don’t understand the subject themselves. Done right it’s fun, done the usual way it’s too often turgid rote learning that makes no sense and often doesn’t get used in real life.

  4. It seems odd to me that anyone who has attended school could believe that intelligence or aptitude is distributed equally.

  5. I feel that complicated car stuff should be left to other people, and carry the price of bread and petrol in my head. What does that make me? Observant of the things I buy most, and congnisant of my own abilities?

  6. Yes and its also preferences that are at play here. A girl good at maths may be more likely to prefer something else than a boy equally good at maths. The more enlightened feminist might even acknowledge a distribution on ability, but still most are loathe to accept that a preference can’t be molded to their own desired outcome.

  7. The sexist perception that maths is best left to the boys is still preventing talented females from fulfilling their potential

    We’re about 100 years in to the large scale social science experiment of emancipating women. We’re now completely broke, up to our balls in semi-retarded immigrants who can’t function in complex societies, and facing imminent demographic meltdown because people can no longer be arsed procreating and an alarmingly large minority of them no longer even know what gender they’re supposed to be.

    How much more female potential does she think the West can survive?

  8. An awful lot of people say “maths” when all they mean is arithmetic. Anyhoo, I claim that a lot of people whose inability at maths or arithmetic would have kept them out of decent jobs in the past now have access to them because of the rise of the spreadsheet. That’ll presumably include lots of women.

    I suspect, but do not know, that people with little ability at maths/arithmetic may be rather unskilful at looking at the output of a spreadsheet calculation and saying “that must be wrong”. Anyone here got any experience that sheds light on my guess?

    (P.S. In my secondary school class all the pupils who were maths hotshots were male. Yet to be in the class the lassies had had to do well at ages 10 and 11 at IQ and “attainment” tests, the latter being in English and arithmetic. So the lassies weren’t dim – and you could tell that just by talking to them – they just didn’t shine at maths.)

  9. Get with the programme, bigots! Girls are better at everything, from swimming to quantum physics. It’s only the patriarchy holding us back.
    And the baby bust is easily explained. Who would want to give birth to a creature that might randomly be assigned male?

  10. Dearime: in the 11+ era, the stats were skewed to ensure the school intake was 50/50 girls and boys regardless of that year’s ability. Otherwise you’d have the embarrassing result of a “mixed” school being 60%/40% when the population was 50/50.

    I’ve seen data that demonstrates that boys were “topped-up” to ensure the Grammar School population was sex balanced, as at 11 the girls outperformed them in the tests they used. By 16/18 the boys were outperforming the girls.

  11. We’re about 100 years in to the large scale social science experiment of emancipating women. . . [dom and gloom]

    We’re about 100 years in to the “large scale social science experiment” of emancipating most adult people. You’ll need to put some effort into denoising a signal for the influence of women as the cause of that doom and gloom. Off you go. You’re a bloke wiv da maffs, you can do it.

  12. PJF – You’ll need to put some effort into denoising a signal for the influence of women as the cause of that doom and gloom.

    My theory is that 99% of Current Thing propaganda: Love is Love, bigots and isn’t it just awful what’s happening to the poor brown people / polar bears / workshy dole scum isn’t aimed at men.

  13. Btw, would it even be possible for Labour to win elections if women didn’t vote? Would the Greens have any representation at all?

    I don’t think so.

  14. @jgh: we were told that to be in the second top stream at school – the B stream – you had to have an IQ of 118. No mention there of different thresholds for the two sexes. Maybe your knowledge is of a particularly English habit.

    Promotion and demotion between the A stream and B stream was presumably possible as the years passed; that would cope with the different maturity rates of boys and girls. Many subjects were anyway taught to mixed A/B classes, presumably to avoid having uneconomically small classes.

    It was noticeable, though, that as the pupils had to start choosing which subjects to pursue and which to give up, the boys tended to maths and the physical sciences, the girls to languages and biology.

  15. Btw, would it even be possible for Labour to win elections if women didn’t vote? Would the Greens have any representation at all?

    First Labour government – 1924
    Universal suffrage – 1928

    Can’t answer the Green question easily, but even a cursory glance shows that the vast majority of the womens vote for something other than green.

    It’s true that men lean more nationalist / conservative than women. In a fair, just and equitable society, this may indicate that not enough husbands beat their wives.

  16. It used to be held (based on opinion polls?) that women voted disproportionately Conservative. If this has changed when did it change?

  17. When I read maths at Oxford (1970) colleges were still segregated, so there were about 30 women in our year of ~200. Assuming that competition for all places was equally intense, that would have placed the women in the top 10-15% and most should have earned firsts. They weren’t and didn’t. I blame the patriarchy.

  18. PJF – I’m not sure any useful comparison can be made with the Labour Government of 1924

    In a fair, just and equitable society, this may indicate that not enough husbands beat their wives.

    Beatings are unnecessary, I agree with learned bitchmaster Sir Sean Connery on this subject.

    Dearieme – here’s how it shook out in the last election:

    The Conservative lead over Labour amongst men was thus a huge 18 percentage points, compared to just a 5-point lead amongst women. If the electorate was entirely female, the Conservatives would have had a much slimmer majority than the one they enjoy now. If the electorate was entirely male, Labour would have done even worse – and their seat share in 2019 was already the lowest won since 1935.

    The only reason Sir Keir Starmer looks competitive is because of ladies’ votes.

    But it gets a lot worse, as it usually does, when we look at The Future:

    61% of women under the age of 35 voted Labour compared to 19% of women over the age of 65; only 20% of women under 35 voted Conservative, compared to 62% over the age of 65.

    For men, these age differentials are substantial but smaller: 48% of men under the age of 35 voted Labour compared to 21% of men over the age of 65; similarly, 28% of men under the age of 35 voted Conservative compared to 58% of men over the age of 65.

    The Tories can hope people magically gain sense as they age, but most of them just age into older fools. If we think today’s Conservative Party is weak and useless, the one that has to appeal to angry, childless cat ladies raging that their psychology degree and career girl bullshit led them to poverty and loneliness AND IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT is going to be insufferable.

    60% of women aged 18-35 wanted a second referendum, whilst only 26% were definitely opposed to one.

    Amongst young men, 50% wanted a second referendum, but 45% were definitely opposed to holding one.

    Can’t find an easily copy and pastable snippet on the Green Party, but I have looked at the graphs, and women are significantly more likely to vote for them, men significantly less. The male/female breakdown of their vote closely mirrors the divide between public sector and private sector in Green voting intensions, indicating a deep seated cultural gap.

    Being prepared to vote for the Green Party is unforgeable proof that one is unfit to wield political power. Tell me, Johnny, what is the moral difference – if any – between a civilian and a citizen?

  19. I’m not sure any useful comparison can be made with the Labour Government of 1924

    Ah, when you said “Labour” you meant “goalpost-shifted Labour”. Gotcha.

    Once you’ve cancelled half the electorate, which is the next group responsible for election results you don’t like? This democracy lark is complicated and we want to get it right.

  20. Once you’ve cancelled half the electorate, which is the next group responsible for election results you don’t like?

    We can solve this problem just by cancelling women’s suffrage since it was a bad idea that didn’t work out, but if we’re looking for stretch goals I think you should have to bring documented proof of having been in at least one fist fight before being allowed in the polling place.

    Or one of those lifesized cartoon cut outs: “your bicep must be bigger than Donald Duck’s to use this ride”

    Noodly armed Guardian readers hardest hit.

  21. . . . at least one fist fight . . .

    If you don’t let Gina Carano vote then it’s just footeh twats and gangs of muslims and hindoooos.

  22. Thanks, Steve. But when did women become predominantly lefty? Guess: when fewer devoted their time to raising families and instead took up jobs in arms of government.

  23. Hmmm!! I’d never heard of Gina Carano, PJF. I’d agree she looks as though she deserves a vote.

    As for women being lefty dearieme, the women in my family always strike me as outstandingly sensible and practical. But of course occasionally they’re wrong ie they disagree with me.

    Naturally I’m now killing myself laughing at what they’d say to me if I told them that.

  24. ‘Tell me, Johnny, what is the moral difference – if any – between a civilian and a citizen?’

    Good lord Steve. You’re not a reader of Heinlein are you???

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