**Nature:** BoingBoing points to a new study published in NeuroImage^{$30} showing that the brains of men and women have very different architectures to support intelligence.

The study shows women having more white matter and men more gray matter related to intellectual skill, revealing that no single neuroanatomical structure determines general intelligence and that different types of brain designs are capable of producing equivalent intellectual performance.This, according to Rex Jung, a UNM neuropsychologist and co-author of the study, may help to explain why men tend to excel in tasks requiring more local processing (like mathematics), while women tend to excel at integrating and assimilating information from distributed gray-matter regions in the brain, such as required for language facility. These two very different neurological pathways and activity centers, however, result in equivalent overall performance on broad measures of cognitive ability, such as those found on intelligence tests.

**Nurture:** Rudbeckia Hirta points to an article in the latest Notices of the AMS entitled “Racial Equity Requires Teaching Elementary School Teachers More Mathematics” [pdf]. The article describes both *horrifying* ignorance in elementary school math teachers and the amazing ability of their students to learn math when they're actually exposed to it. Read the whole thing.

This conviction began after a survey I did in the mid-1980s of black mathematicians in New Jersey. Seventy-five black people with at least one degree in mathematics responded to a variety of questions, including, “What can be done to bring more blacks into mathematics?”The second most common answer to this question was, “Publicize role models.” I might have been planting that answer because I was clearly collecting role models. However, the most common answer (by far) I definitely did not plant; it came as a total surprise to me. It was, “Teach mathematics better to all American children. The way it is now, if children don’t learn mathematics at home, they don’t learn it at all, so any ethnic group that is underrepresented in mathematics will remain so until children are taught mathematics better in elementary school.” [...]

Children who have been mathematically abused are much less able to benefit from mathematically competent teachers when they finally reach them. One lesson our current elementary school teachers convey powerfully is that math is too difficult to understand. Because knowledge of mathematics correlates strongly with economic and political achievement, the mathematical education of all elementary school teachers is the paramount equity issue. As Will Rogers said long ago, “You can’t teach what you don’t know any more than you can come back from where you ain’t been.”

In light of studies like the one you mention, perhaps Summers wasn't so out of bounds to suggest that biological differences might possibly be one factor explaining disparities in math & science representation between men and women.

I'm not saying they are, or if they are, that they explain the whole disparity, or even part of it. But Summers should be free to float theories that are even now the subject of serious research, without having the PC goon squads jump all over him.

The sad truth is, for someone in Summers' position, it would have been more pragmatic for him to just censor himself.

Posted by: GaijinBiker | January 24, 2005 at 12:37 AM