"Well, there is only one piece of advice I can give you," said the wisest of wise men. "The secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the world and never to forget the drops of oil on the spoon."

('The Alchemist' Paulo Coelho)

Monday, November 17, 2008

It's a girl thing

I heard it on Radio 4 this morning as I was contemplating getting out of bed. Vicky Tuck, Head of Cheltenham Ladies College was being interviewed about her presidential address to the Annual Girls' Schools Conference. According to her, one reason why single sex education is more beneficial to girls is that their brains are wired differently to those of boys and a change in teaching approach to accommodate this allows them to attain better results, in maths particularly.
As a lifetime, fully paid up member of Maths Phobics Anonymous, my ears pricked up at this. It appears that girls and boys use different parts of their brains to learn, with girls veering more towards the cerebral cortex and boys the hippocampus. One result of this is that girls tend to relate more to the real world and therefore maths teaching needs to take account of this. While boys are quite happy dealing with the core properties of numbers, this tends to deter the girls; they do better if the teaching is rooted in practical aspects.
Now this not new, but it struck a chord with me. Guess what? I'm not an idiot when it comes to maths (and physics and chemistry - the same concept applies). No, I just haven't been taught properly, being thrust as I was into a mixed sex class.
So, Mr Hemmings, Mr Devonald and whoever else had the misfortune to try to teach me maths, it's all your fault. Just think, I could have been a maths genius under different circumstances.

The hippocampus, incidentally, also plays a major role in spatial navigation, but I'm not going into that one!


  1. I find this report somewhat perplexing because given my own deeply rooted aversion to mathematics and abstract science, I have concluded that I must be a girl!

  2. Aha! So your secret is out, YP! Not to worry, it's not bad being a girl. You get to buy lots of clothes and shoes and paint your nails. ;)

  3. Hmm.. It's all very interesting, but doesn't explain why I was doing SO well at maths in my (mixed sex) primary school, and went on to flunk it completely in an all girls High School.

    Could it be that Mrs W, the dreaded maths teacher, was really a man? Some of us wouldn't have been surprised...

  4. Ah, well, JJ, another piece I read stated that boys and girls do equally well at primary school and the differences start to become apparent in secondary school. Another mystery...

  5. It's the constant gossiping on the phone and smug claims to be able to multitask even when I'm asleep that are going to be difficult to handle. Wearing the silky tights will be no problem.

  6. It's tough, YP but just keep practising. And watch your nails on the silky tights! :)



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