Solving the equation: xx=xy

More girls are taking maths A level but they are still hugely outnumbered by boys, despite research showing no gender gap in ability. Helen Ward asks why female students are put off the subject, and finds that teaching approaches and cultural norms are at the root of the problem

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We need a female Brian Cox of the maths world,” says maths teacher Mel Muldowney from Colmers School and sixth form college in Birmingham. “We need to send that positive message to girls – that you can be good at maths and be a girl.”

Increasingly, that message is beginning to get through – this year maths was the fourth most popular A level among girls, taken by more than 34,000 of them, and female students’ entries in the subject have risen by more than a fifth since 2010.

However, this success still pales in comparison with the figures for boys. For male students, maths is subject number ...

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