The Gender Gap – Part I

If you’ve raised a son and a daughter, you know it’s a very different experience between the two genders. Girls are wired different than boys. They think, respond, act, and behave differently.

Brain scans have shown that boys’ brains are very different from girls’ brains when it comes to their physical, social, and emotional development. This includes their ability to learn new information. There are also many biochemical differences between the two sexes.

Girls have faster-growing brains. More areas of their brains are dedicated to verbal functioning. Their hippocampi develop earlier than boys. This means they’re better able to expand their vocabularies, talk through problems, and communicate through writing at an earlier age. They also have higher levels of serotonin and oxytocin in their bodies so they appear calmer in class.

Boys have larger brains and more areas of their brain are dedicated to spatial and mechanical functioning. It takes much longer for their hippocampi to develop. Boys need physical movement, pictures, and graphics to expand their vocabularies and to be able to communicate through writing. Their lower levels of serotonin and oxytocin make it harder for them to stop fidgeting and getting distracted in class.

Combined with a higher maturity level and the ability to actually sit still in class and listen, young girls tend to do much better than boys in reading, writing, and speech. Boys tend to do much better in math and science, where they can actually do things with their hands and learn through manipulation.

There are always exceptions to any rule. Some boys in class will excel in reading, writing, and speech far more so than some of their female counterparts, and some girls will do the same in the areas of math and science.

New studies have shown that environment can also play a key role in what boys and girls learn and how they learn. Parents and teachers influence the learning cycle for boys and girls. They can influence a child to do better in certain subjects and they can deter them from excelling in other subjects. This influence is based on their attitudes and behaviors toward gender biases and their personal interests.

These biases and attitudes are often unintentional but they can be powerful. For example, girls are naturally wired to feel safe and secure in structured settings. This accounts for their ability to feel comfortable in a classroom but feel uncomfortable in the lunchroom or gym. Boys feel far more comfortable in unstructured settings where they have more freedom over movement and behaviors. Understanding this can help parents and teachers help kids succeed in both settings and change their attitudes and expectations to fit the unique needs of each child.