9 Oct 2009
Spatial abilities, particularly three-dimensional thinking, are important to develop skills in various kinds of maths and science, says Dr. Lise Eliot, Associate Professor in the Department of Neuroscience at the Chicago Medical School.
Girls and boys seem to start out fine in the early years of schooling with respect to these subjects. In Kindergarten, there is no difference between boys and girls.
The change starts to take place (slowly) at primary school. By the time children reach high school and college, there are certain areas of maths like calculus and trigonometry as well as physics and engineering where girls start dropping off and don't score as well on standardized tests.
Each of these subjects is heavily dependent on spatial abilities, says Eliot. Boys are more spatially oriented and appear to have a higher interest in things that move, like trucks and balls and so on.
Boys have a higher activity level, which makes them find these things more appealing.
All the things that boys like to play with - building stuff and sports - are good for spatial skills. Girls are doing less of these activities, as they get older so they get less practice with spatial skills. This affects their aptitude in maths and science.
Eliot says it may not be a bad idea to let girls play more video games, for example. All that "driving" and "shooting" that boys seem to do on video games may actually be beneficial for girls.