97 males and 7 females got perfect scores

Friday, February 14th, 2020

Average men and women have similar verbal and math abilities Charles Murray notes (in Human Diversity: The Biology of Gender, Race, and Class, leaning on Diane Halpern’s Sex Differences in Cognitive Abilities), but not as similar at the extremes:

On tests with nationally representative samples, females can be expected to consistently outperform males on a variety of verbal tasks, with a small advantage in reading and a more substantial advantage in writing.


To the question, “Is the typical male better at math than the typical female?” the answer is close to settled: “If yes, not enough to be noticeable,” with an open possibility that a small gap will close altogether.


“Sex differences in mathematics become progressively larger as the sample becomes more selective and the type of math skill becomes more advanced,” writes Halpern, and herein lies a major issue in the study of cognitive sex differences.


The last 60 years have seen major reductions in the male advantage at the extreme high end for 7th graders. For those in the top two percentiles, a ratio of about 2.0 in 1960 appears to have disappeared. For those in the top percentile, a male ratio of about 7.0 has fallen to around 1.5. At the most stratospheric level, the top 1 percent of the top 1 percent, a male advantage that was measured at about 13 to 1 in the 1970s and the early 1980s has fallen to less than 3 to 1.


In short, what was once thought to be an overwhelming male advantage at high levels of math achievement has been greatly reduced during the last six decades.


The male-female ratios in the top percentiles of the AMC12 are substantial and they grow larger at the 98th and especially the 99th percentile. In the table, I counted perfect scores of 150 as being in the 99th percentile. When they are broken out separately, it turns out that from 2009 to 2018, 97 males and 7 females got perfect scores: a ratio of 13.9.


  1. Bill says:

    “…an overwhelming male advantage at high levels of math achievement has been greatly reduced during the last six decades.”

    I’ll tell you how it was done.

    Well-to-do parents went to secondary school principals in the 1970’s and 1980’s and laid down a clear message: ”Our daughters are going to apply to the best schools and they’re going to need math grades at least equal to the boys’. Make it happen.”

    And they did. Math class was transformed so girls would get better grades than boys. The brightest boys, who just wrote down answers, were graded down for not showing their work. Grades were handed out for in class group work, which is primarily social in nature. Clerical skills were emphasized when students were expected to keep detailed notebooks.

    Even today, SAT math scores are significantly higher for boys, while high school grades in math are higher for girls. What do you think that says?

    Who knows how many boys were told that they were “C” students in math, and just gave up?

  2. Graham says:

    I can understand the logic of showing your work. You want to eliminate guesswork in an educational setting, among other related phenomena, and to prove that the student actually can show the process as a proxy for showing understanding. Fine.

    I remember being annoyed by that as a kid, but so it goes.

    Group work, though. I was a kid in the 70s just as this became more and more faddish. I hated that so much, and in every subject.

    I guess, teaching team work is no bad thing. But boy it was annoying picking up slack and wasting time talking.

  3. Bill says:

    I can also understand about “showing your work”. However.

    When my son was halfway through his first semester of middle school, I received a note that he was getting a “C” in math. I met with the teacher, who sort of defensively (defiantly?) said “Yes, he’s getting a C in tests, a C in class work and a C in homework. He’s getting a C in math.”

    I said okay, tell me about tests, how many questions there are. She said about thirty questions. So how many did my son answer correctly? And she said oh he gets all the answers right, but he gets a C because he doesn’t show his work.

    Really? A C?

    I’ll just hit the high points. My son took tutoring and moved ahead two years in math. As a freshman in college, he took grad level math and tutored senior math majors. He’s now working on his math PhD.

    How many parents would just let it go? How many boys were denied opportunities just so girls can get good grades in math? I’ve spoken with girls (now adults) who went through these programs, who squealed enthusiastically about how being able to get unlimited extra points for busywork got them the A their parents wanted.

  4. Kirk says:

    Schooling was captured by the fussy little girls who wanted to control everything long before we were all born. The reason boys do so poorly in it, and why black boys do particularly poorly, is because everything is set up to make the fussy little girls happy, who love cutting things out and pasting them in, just so. Little girls who love control love school, so it’s set up to meet their needs. Unfortunately, they make up a small fraction of the population, one that should never, ever be given control over others in any way, shape, or form. Frankly, I think the lot of them ought to be sterilized and left out on ice floes, for the improvement of the race.

    If you were to free schooling from their inimical control, there would be a hell of a lot more “get out and do” as opposed to “sit with folded hands and listen to the smug little girl prattle on” sort of thing. The reason boys don’t do well in school boils down to a dearth of physical activity and outlet for their energy–Instead, we try to make them fussy little girls and force them to take drugs so they won’t make a fuss in the classroom.

    Two hundred years ago, we didn’t “educate” like this–Kids got basic skills, and then went into apprenticeship programs with adults supervising them. We didn’t throw them into mobs of other kids, where they gradually descend to the least common denominator behavior-wise; instead, we exposed them to the real world of adult life at an early age, and let them learn by doing. Is it any wonder we’ve got the problems we do, with all this bullshit?

    I blame nine-tenths of our current problems in public life on the disaster that is our educational system. We’ve set it to churn out drone-like fussy little girls, male and female, and then wonder why we produce so few people like Elon Musk, who can think outside the box and do actual creative work.

    Blow up the academy, devolve it back to where it belongs. The creation of the idea of adolescence has been an overall and utter disaster.

  5. Graham says:

    I enjoyed reading those comments, truly. Made my afternoon. Concur, also. It’s the distilled truth behind the sort of thing Christina Hoff Sommers has been writing since the 1990s.

    A few years ago, Ontario’s Liberal government was led by Premier Kathleen Wynne and Deputy Premier Deb Matthews. One of them commented about how wonderful for Ontarians to be governed by a pair of grandmothers. Naturally I was unusual in wondering what could possibly be good about that. A government of grumpy grandfathers would f off and leave us alone. A government of enthusiastic grandmothers is the terror of mankind.

    Every fussy little girl Lisa Simpson is likely to grow up to be a meddlesome old biddy. Insert your choice of fictional character or public figure.

  6. Kirk says:

    The worst meddlesome old biddies are male. See “Micheal Bloomberg” for an excellent example of the type.

    It’s kind of like the “new convert syndrome”, where the latest and newest believers in a cause are the most vehement and generally insane. There’s no hell like the one created by a smoker who’s recently quit–They’ll proselytize anyone, even non-smokers. I had a boss that went that way, from smoking like a chimney to quitting, and by the second week of his newly-acquired status as a non-smoker, I was ready to take up smoking myself just to put it into his face.

    We all went out and had a drink, the night the new LT finally drove him back to smoking out of stress, which was about six months after he quit. Good times, good times…

  7. Graham says:

    That was so worth coming back here for.

  8. Graham says:

    I so rarely LOL in any obvious way on the webs.

  9. Kirk says:

    I should probably have made it more clear that I am and always have been a non-smoker; hate the smell of cigarettes, kinda tolerate cigars, enjoy the scent of pipe tobacco. But, after putting up with that guy’s line of newly-quit smoker nuttiness directed at all of us, smoker and non-smoker alike, I was about ready to take up cigarettes out of spite.

    We got along fine, otherwise–It was just that one issue that drove us all batty. I think that was the worst, most extreme example of that syndrome I ever ran into.

    Probably the funniest thing, though, was coming into the building one night after the LT finally drove him over the edge, and finding him there in his darkened office with a package of cigarettes laid out on the desk in front of him, and he’s looking at them, all twenty laid out in a row, with a look of what I can only describe as sheer horror combined with indescribable longing. I started to go in, stopped myself, and left him alone with his demons.

    About five minutes later, I had finished what I came back for, and walked out. He’d gathered all his forbidden fruit up, and was out by the smoking area with all twenty cigarettes clutched in one hand, while furiously smoking them one after another in swift succession. I had to stop and watch him, because I swear to God, those cigarettes were going down in like seconds, with no break in between. When he looked up guiltily at me and noticed I was there, watching, the expression on his face was that of one of the damned…

    I will leave it as an exercise for the reader to extrapolate what working for that particular Lieutenant was like. If I had been in my former squad leader’s platoon under that particular LT, I’d have probably been smoking like a chimney or drinking like a fish to cope with the insanity, myself. Poor bastard that I’m talking about had been so deliriously happy to get his own platoon, too–Then, the guy he thought he was going to work for as Platoon Sergeant got shuffled off to another job in the battalion, and this nightmare Platoon Leader came in to replace him. Took that benighted idiot less than a month to turn my old squad leader into a shell of the man he’d been.

    Ever see that old Married with Children episode, where Peggy turns the personal trainer she won in a contest into a slobbish physical wreck in the course of it all, and the guy dies of a heart attack induced by his unhealthy lifestyle? When I saw that a few years later, I had to call up guys I’d been with and tell them “Hey, you gotta watch that show when it’s on rerun… I just saw SFC X and LT Y on TV!!”. Everyone who’d seen that episode said they’d seen the same damn thing.

    Although, you probably had to be there and know the parties involved to really get the full horror and humor of it all… There’s nothing quite like watching a reformed drunk fall of the wagon for fully understandable and darkly humorous reasons.

  10. Kirk says:

    Should also mention that the sequence of events from finding him in the smoking area was to perform immediate action by dragging his ass off to the NCO club with a couple of other members of what had been his squad, and which was now mine with him moved up to a platoon. That itself was a bit of a looking-glass moment, finding ourselves in a position to offer succor to the old hard-ass boss who’d been broken by the idiot. And, he had been broken–Poor bastard was never the same, after that. Much more humble, less of a prissy-perfect semi-martinet. He’d just come off drill sergeant duty when we’d gotten him, and he’d been an utter pain in the ass to work for. After his moment of crisis, he was a hell of a lot more human and far less arrogant.

    Strange thing to find yourself in the midst of, I’m telling you. That LT was something else, and it gave me great pleasure to learn that he’d been a massive pain in the ass to all his future subordinates after he left the Army and went to work for the Department of Transportation as a Civil Engineer. Ran into his name a couple of times over the years, talked to a couple of people who’d worked for him, and when I mentioned the name, they just rolled their eyes and said the therapy had been expensive…

  11. Bill says:

    I should add that my son still absorbed some of the progressive Left bs from college. He really believes that women are just as good at math as men. When I asked him how many women there were in his grad school math classes of 25, he said 2 or 3. I thought about challenging this, but he needs to not get thrown out of grad school for thoughtcrime.

    As far as “ Blow up the academy, devolve it back to where it belongs“ is concerned, I like the Henry VIII solution to having so much land and people locked into a useless religious system. The Dissolution of the Monasteries was a great idea; the huge endowments of even supposedly public universities puts them out of civilian control.

  12. Graham says:


    I meant what I said above about your quick take at 5:26 pm. I had just popped back in here at end of an annoying day and that was a rich reward. But your longer form stories are even better than the trailer versions.

    Never smoked either, so I can’t empathize much with the misfortune of the longtime smoker, but I can sympathize. That guy’s sitting at the desk and then power smoking is indeed sad and funny at once. And yes, the reformed [insert vice here] is one of the most annoying human types.

    My dad smoked from about 15 to 40, then quit cold turkey. I was ten. He was never a proselytizer though. He was the sort to leave folks alone, and I think none of my parents’ friends smoked by then anyway so my mother rarely if ever had to exile anyone to the front step. Just ceased to be a thing at our house or any of the friends’ houses. I was never inclined to smoke in school, so I’ve no idea whether my dad would have turned preachy to keep me off the things. Mom, maybe.

    I’m happy in retrospect to have had my second hand exposure cut shorter than it would have been. The funny thing was, I was never in later life bothered much by a bit of 2nd hand smoke, in bars and restaurants and such, certainly not enough to campaign against it, but I’m just as happy that indoor smoking is widely illegal now in Ottawa, and most or all of Canada.

    I mostly now experience 2nd hand smoke at bus stops. It’s against bylaws to smoke within 9 metres of one, but surprisingly folks don’t pay much heed…

    I change buses at what passes for a seedy downtown location in Ottawa. Until last year, most of the smoke I smelled was illegal weed. Now it’s legal weed. Usually really skunky and stale odour too. I was pleasantly surprised to be behind a guy who had clearly just lit up a quality one. Even so, yuck. By comparison, the occasional freshly lit cigarette smells oddly pleasant to me. Cigars and pipes smell pleasant longer, but just a whiff of new cigarette is pleasant enough. I just wouldn’t want to get more than the scent in the nose.

    Alas, most of what I smell at the stop, weed or tobacco, is stale, rank leftovers hanging in the air. I haven’t decided which smells worse when stale. Though the smell clinging to cigarette smokers in workplace elevators is nasty, and it’s only mitigated a bit by open air at the bus stop, it lacks that sickly sweet skunk spray effect, so week is probably worse for me.

  13. Graham says:

    In Friends, Chandler smoking was a running gag in season one, and referenced a few times in later seasons.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3YFrzUTYKcA I always liked his lines in the first scene, in which Joey is trying to get the part of a smoking character and Chandler has to teach him the right physical mannerism and attitude.

    Also, one of those scenes also involved this immortal moment by Gunther, the coffee house manager: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kdx014q-Wrg

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