Do Girls Help Boys Focus?

2010/02/25
By Jenna G

photo by smithereen11

If you ask a little boy what he thinks about a girl he is more than likely going to say “Ew, girls have cooties!” What they don’t know is that cooties are good for them.  Well…girls are at least. According to a new study boys are more successful on academic things when there are more girls than boys in their preschool class.

To test this, they studied 70 preschool classes, with a total of 806 students. The children were from the ages of 3-and-half to 6 years old.  The teachers recorded the progress over a 6.5 month period of time. The teachers focused on the student’s motor skills, thinking skills, and social skills. The data showed that boys developed these skills more promptly when there were more girls than boys in the class. In classrooms with more boys there was data to prove that boys developed slower.

Although, data says that boys are able to develop skills faster when with girls, girls can learn equally well with more boys and more girls. They are not affected with boys as the majority of the class. Also, girls are capable of developing well with the majority of the class girls.

What other scientific evidence can you find about this? Does this also apply to high school students?

  • Amy

    When I saw this post it made me really interested. I researched the topic to see if this applied to high school students. I discovered a study that was done where the results were that girls perform better academically without boys. The academic scores of 700,000 girls were taken from co-ed and all girls schools and they discovered that girls made more progress without boys in their classes mostly in high school. I found it interesting that these two different studies could have these results. I think that it does not matter if you go to a co-ed school because the only way that the other students could affect you is if you let yourself get distracted by them. Other students of the same gender can distract you as well as students of the opposite gender. It might also be the teacher, the student’s work ethics, or their character that might affect how they work and if they succeed in academics. One plus about going to a girl’s school is that some girls’ confidence level may increase because of the absence of boys. Also, they might have less competition and be more focused on academics than in a co-ed school.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2009/mar/18/secondary-schools-girls-gcse-results

  • Matt Cohen

    Jenna this was a very interesting article. I did a little research last year when I actually did a presentation on this. Due to this source (http://educationalissues.suite101.com/article.cfm/single_sex_classrooms) and many more web sites it is proven that single-sex classrooms has bosted test scores in students. This is because the male or female is not concentrating on impressing the opposite sex, instead is concentrating on his or her school work. Here is some more sources that prove my information.
    http://www.brighterchoice.org/index.php?id=29
    http://privateschool.about.com/u/ua/choosingschools2/singlesex.htm ( Says only in highschool you should be in a single-sex school.)
    http://www.ncwge.org/PDF/Single-Sex%20Education.pdf

  • phoenixia

    In elementary schools ,it has been suggested that boys and girls are segregated. They found that girls mostly gathered with other girls in areas of the playground , such as the hopscotch board or the jungle gym. Boys would mostly gather with other boys and play on the fields or basketball courts. Also girls tend to gather in smaller groups than boys do. They also tend to play differently too. Boys play more rough games and girls tend to play more organized games that are not as dangerous. Maybe the distraction of the opposite sex depends on the individual. http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=pp_wVLU–KwC&oi=fnd&pg=PA115&dq=do+girls+help+boys+focus+&ots=UQ1sAyqLtM&sig=dn8v6C75azl1zd6L9wDmu-d3Tvc#v=onepage&q=do%20girls%20help%20boys%20focus&f=false

  • Rohit

    This was a very interesting article. I found a study that was about achievement and personality. Researchers from Haifa University in Israel monitored 52 pupils ages 14 and 15 to study the relation between achievement and personality. In this study it showed that girls are more likely to cooperate during lessons. Female students outperformed men at the university. The Higher Education Policy Institute found out that girls could study high status subjects such as law and medicine, and get better overall grades.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/5468367/Nice-girls-more-likely-to-get-good-grades-at-school.html

  • http://www.soulycatholichs.blogspot.com Charlie A. Roy

    At the risk of being unpopular – what if we recognized that the way we set up learning environments in primary and pre-school settings fundamentally favors the learning styles of girls? Leonard Sax cites some interesting research in his work analyzing the merits of single sex education. One fundamental issue is that girls mature much more quickly than boys. We insist all preschoolers began at age 4 or so when in general at this age girls are developmentally a year or so beyond the boys. Finland largely considered to be the best in the world in terms of education chooses to defer the start of formal education till age 7. Imagine that? Somehow these students still manage to slam the rest of the world by the time they are teenagers in terms of PISA scores.

    I’ve been an elementary school principal and I think the gender disconnect is crucial at this age. Boys and girls are different. Even the development of vision in terms of the nature of the structure of the eye are fundamentally different. In boys the eye cells are designed to pick up motion and gage spacial relationship. In girls the predominance of cells for recognizing details come through. Next time you are in a primary school look at the art on the wall. What do the boys draw? Mostly action items not detailed pictures of faces etc. But then what happens? The boys are told their drawings are sloppy and not refined. They get a sad face on their picture and just agree “art is for girls”.

    We need to recognize these differences if we are truly going to reform education in our country in a meaningful way.

  • http://saddlebredrescue.com Erin

    Cool post! Many school psychologists find that girls outperform boys in all age groups and all subjects. Girls also tend to criticize their performance more than boys. Also it has been proved that girls are not boastful about grades etc but evaluate on what should be improved rather than boys who tend to have unrealistic goals of character and academic performance. The teaching method can often effect self esteem. According to the study done in my source teachers should encourage girls more and make a boy realize he is not as amazing as he thinks.
    http://www.singlesexschools.org/research-learning.htm

  • Sam

    This is a very good post. I was interested to know more of the reason why boys tend to absorb information better when girls around at such a young age. The experiment that was conducted did not give enough information about the science behind this. Then reading Charlie A. Roy’s comment on this blog led me to research why women mature fast then men do. On a website I found it is known that woman mature two years faster in their brain then men do. In the boys early twenties, they start to catch up with birl’s brains and maturity. The same website explained that boys typically take the lead when it comes to sex because their amygdala is twice the size of the womens and that controls their sexual thought. To learn more about this topic, here is the website:
    http://abcnews.go.com/2020/story?id=2504460&page=2

  • Adam

    This is a really great post Jenna! Your post grabbed my attention immediately and it was truly well written. In additional research, results for more success with single sex classrooms are mixed. Some research shows improvements in scores and some show about the same level of academic achievement. More interesting than test scores was the idea of teachers and schools not spending enough time to research and learn about the best ways and methods boys and girls learn separately and or together. This may be the key to every child’s ultimate success in the classroom. The article I’ve attached takes a deeper look into this topic and talks about the idea of investing more time in how people learn.

    http://www.newsrecord.org/2.7228/research-divided-on-same-sex-classrooms-1.763072

  • Deanna

    Interesting post Jenna. I did some research on this topic and found out that girls with ADD, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), strive to do better in school as opposed to boys with ADD. Girls try to hide this disorder they have. Girls who have this disease might be mistaken for being depressed or anxious. Opposed to boys who have fidgeting problems, sloppy handwriting, constantly bored in school, and don’t fully reach their academic potential. This proves girls with ADD strive to do better in school than boys with ADD. I found my information on these two sites:
    http://www.addvance.com/help/women/high_school.html, and
    http://borntoexplore.org/boys.htm.

  • victor

    That was a fun read. I am a high school student, and if anything attractive girls distract me, and the others don’t affect me at all. I also have a brother who is 3 and goes to lower school in Wagner College, when I ask him about girls he shows no interest. Which shows that girls have a different affect on older boys than they do on 3 year old boys. On the other side this website shows the good sides of having opposite sex in school with you. This article also involves younger kids as well as older kids, and their effects on the opposite sex.
    http://www.peggynoonan.com/article.php?article=22

  • Jong

    Interesting post Jenna. A similar study was done to girl schools. According to some studies, girls in single-sexed schools tend to do better on their classes and even on their Sat tests. 71,286 girls from a girl’s school took the same test as 647,942 from a mixed-sex school. An according to some averages, the 20% from the mixed school did much worse in both the tests and in average on their schools.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2009/mar/18/secondary-schools-girls-gcse-results

  • Guy

    In my high school the boys in my grade outnumber the girls 20 to 11. In my old school the girl to boy ratio was pretty much even. During my change from a public school to a private school I see I difference in the way boy act while with the girls. I have also learned most of the kids in my grade who have been in my current school since pre-k predominately have better grades than newer kids. I really do not think the more girls in the class at a younger age effects the boy’s grades and development. I do think that have more girls in younger grades does help your social skills because you learn how to talk to the opposite sex. I also found an opposite argument that girls do better in school without boys. The girls with the lowest test scores who change from a co-ed school to an all girl school improved the most on their test scores out of all of the other girls in a co-ed class in their score range. I got this information at http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2009/mar/18/secondary-schools-girls-gcse-results.

  • Guy

    Can you add this link to my comment above:
    http://www.pbs.org/parents/raisingboys/school.html

  • Alex

    Really cool post Jenna! I think that it’s helpful to have co-ed classes at a younger age, to develop social skills and to experience more of the normalcy’s of childhood. But there are many middle-high school students that experience academic and social success in same sex schools. I think that the success rate of co-ed students in pre-school is higher because girls are proven to mature faster- which gives incentive to male classmates to catch up. Stuck in an all male class, boys probably wouldn’t have the same incentive to succeed when only with each other.
    It seems as though everyone has an opinion on this pressing matter. For instance this UK article says that single-sex makes no difference in the classroom: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2006/jun/25/schools.gender , while others argue that boys tend to be easily distracted, something that the female pressence wouldn’t help.

  • Mike S

    In certain cases a female might help males focus but in others they do the opposite. This test was done with kindergardeners and not with teenagers. Teens usually tend to have conflicts with the opposite sex. I have seen this in personal experiences in school. Also females can be a distraction to males in teenage years because of hormones.
    Men and women have many differences and that can cause conflict and lead to less attentive males/

    [ http://crr.math.arizona.edu/GenderKeynote.pdf ]
    [ http://74.125.113.132/search?q=cache:4DtoXPsN7swJ:api.ning.com/files/SYODiZKFc3kHNxz27NHLgscUwFc7u7GQFvT*OlN7XVI_/BoysGirlsTogetherNMSA2009.pptx+do+girls+help+boys+focus&cd=18&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us ]

  • Michael L.

    Jenna this is a very informative post because of the information given. I found out from research that you do worse in a co-ed school because you tend to be distracted. Also, in a study of grades from co-ed schools compared to segregated sex schools the segregated sex-schools tend to do better by a full 20 % grade and graduation wise. This study shows that all girl schools do better than all boy schools, which I did not find surprising because girls are more focused than girls. This study contained about 110,000 people. http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2009/mar/18/secondary-schools-girls-gcse-results

  • Krista

    Very interesting topic and I enjoyed reading all the comments with links to other related research. As a middle school teacher it’s always interesting to see the interaction between boys and girls. I typically assign seating so that girls and boys will be paired up/sit next to each other. I do this because they seem to be able to get more accomplished like this instead of sitting boy/boy or girl/girl.

  • http://kristaferguson.edublogs.org/2010/03/15/post-2/ Post #2 | Krista Ferguson

    [...] post that caught my eye was ‘Do Girls Help Boys Focus?’.  I teach middle school, which we all know is quite an interesting time for kids in terms of how [...]

  • Theresa Cawthorn

    In an experiment in my middle school I taught an physical science all girls class and a all boys class. The girls worked together so much better than the boys. Sharing lab equipment was no problem for the girls. Where the boys wanted to hog the equipment for themselves not even including their partners. When the girls had ideas on the inquiry labs they shared the ideas and reasoned whether they could work. Boys, not so much, they were reluctant to share their ideas and were sure someone would take credit for their ideas.

  • Morris B

    That’s cool on how girls can help boys. But do they also help boys when the get into middle and high school?

  • Dakota P.

    This post is very interesting, Good Job! This is very interesting to know that boys in lower grades learn better with a larger number of girls in the classroom. In Middle and High School however i think this would change. The boys are now more interested in going out with the girls and put and lot of energy and time into it.

  • Naseem

    That was pretty interesting, Jenna G, and I personally don’t feel surprised. That’s because I grew up with the stereotype that girls are naturally smarter than boys; which isn’t right or wrong. I actually found an article about a thesis written by Anette Hellman of the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, and it examined preschool life and how stereotypical gender types are dealt with! Anette says that most of the behaviors are categorized as either “typical boy” or “typical girl.” Preschoolers fit into these categories if they play with right toys and have the right friends, for example. Boys that don’t fit in are generally aggressive, dominant, lacking in self-control, quiet, or play in feminine spaces/with feminine toys/ or with girls. With girls, troublesome ones are often misunderstood and ignored. Anette Hellman said, “Preschool has the specific mandate of countering stereotypical gender patterns,” says Hellman. “Children test, replicate and question the norms that are repeatedly presented to them. But this doesn’t mean that it is the norms that differentiate the genders that are the most important for the children.”

    Still, in preschool, the kids don’t differentiate between whether you’re a boy or a girl, it’s really what you do. That really interested me.

    Article: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101004101341.htm
    Abstract: http://gupea.ub.gu.se/handle/2077/22776

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