By Ann Finkbeiner | July 5, 2011 | 7 Comments
AG’s little mouseover says, “. . .except algebraic geometry. Algebraic geometry pretty much sucks.” I’m going to have to take his word for it, I’m profoundly innumerate. Moreover, if AG hadn’t added the caption, I would have said this cartoon was about physics. Physics is the science, the knowledge; math is just the language — or at least that’s what physicists tell me. Could physicists be wrong?
Also: AG’s hidden title for this cartoon is “my favorite Danica,” and after some determined googling, I discovered Danica McKellar and her book about math written to encourage teenaged girls: when girls are children, their math scores are pretty much the same as boys’; but when girls become teens, their scores lag behind. The subject attracts considerable scholarly literature but I haven’t the heart to read it. I’ll make it up instead.
Assume the difference is socially determined, and do a zillion questionnaires and interviews on social attitude and teenaged self-perception. Are you going to find that society thinks girls should be good at math but surprise! they’re bad? No, you won’t because society thinks girls are bad at math. You can’t edit the girls out of the society.
Assume the difference is innate and chart the rise with time of some hormone in girls that disrupts the math-able neural circuits established in childhood — or maybe some other hormone that encourages math-able neural circuits, then falls with time. Given the complexities of relationships between hormones, neural circuits, and abilities, I’d say it sounds impossible; but you should ask a neurologist.
If you can’t test it, it ain’t science. And those are my thoughts on this subject. Feel free to tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about.