Sex Differences in College Students' Elementary Arithmetic Ability

Article excerpt

From adolescence, data show that males outperform females on math tests and tests of math reasoning. These tests are usually age appropriate (i.e., SAT-M and the ACT). The current data with college students and a simple test of arithmetic ability show that males still score higher than females (N=235) even when performance is measured using a third grade arithmetic test. Therefore, the original finding of a sex difference in math performance from adolescence is a finding that extends beyond more difficult math tests to simplistic ones. That is, the generality and robustness of the effect is established with this study.


It has been amply documented that from adolescence males outperform females on age relevant mathematics tests (e.g., Benbow & Stanley, 1980; Benbow, 1988; Neisser et al., 1996). Many times the dependent measure is a standardized test of math performance like the ACT or the SAT-M. These types of tests ask age appropriate math questions. Such sex differences persist throughout high school (Hedges & Nowell, 1995) and college (Benbow, 1992; Benbow & Minor, 1986; Benbow and Stanley, 1982). The origin of these differences is as yet unclear. The nature-nurture controversy rears it head at various times as opposed to the types of nurture variables that might account for such differences (e.g. prior math experience, parental attitudes). No one has looked at college students' math performance on tests that measure simple arithmetic performance (3rd grade arithmetic performance). If such a sex difference, males score higher than females, still maintains, then the frequently seen adolescent math sex difference must be very robust.



The participants were a convenience sample of 235 students 18-57 years of age attending Cameron University. 71 of the subjects were male and 163 of the subjects were female. 63 of the subjects were Masters students and 172 were undergraduate students. Most of the participants (126) were psychology majors, 106 consisted of a variety of majors and 3 participants did not report their major.


The demographics survey contained questions concerning the participants age, gender, class standing, and college major. The subjects were also asked to indicate if they had previously completed and undergraduate quantitative methods course in the psychology department. The D'Amore Test consists of 3rd grade level arithmetic questions and has been described previously (Weinstein and Laverghetta, 2008)


Participants were instructed by a graduate research assistant to read and sign an informed consent document, which briefly described the purpose of the study, the risks and benefits of participation in the study, and they were given a statement of confidentiality. The participants the filled the survey. All of the participants completed the surveys voluntarily and were given extra credit in the appropriate course. The participants were then read a debriefing statement and given an opportunity to answer any questions regarding the nature and purpose of the study.

Scores on the D'Amore test were calculated for each participant. All of the data from the surveys were entered into SPSS v. …