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STEM challenge may never be overcome…because of boys’ toilet habits

If you work in education recruitment you may have read the story in the Times Educational Supplement about a new theory purporting to explain why more boys than girls take up physics at A-level and beyond.

According to researchers from the Australian National University and Abertay University in Dundee, boys have a ‘natural’ advantage over girls because of their penchant for aiming at targets when they pee.

They found that boys are taught to aim from the moment they stop using nappies and by the time they reach 14 years old, they will have experimented with aiming their pee the furthest, highest and most precisely as possible over 10,000 times.

This, the researchers argued, gives boys a better understand of force, momentum and fluid dynamics than girls – projectile motion being the “entry point to more sophisticated mechanics concepts such as force, energy and momentum.

“This self-directed, hands-on, intrinsically (and sometimes extrinsically, and socially) rewarding activity must have a huge potential contribution to learning, resulting in a deep, embodied, material knowledge of projectile motion that’s simply not accessible to girls.”

In the UK, just 1 in 5 of pupils studying A-levels physics is a girl, with the results of a survey of 11,500 girls across 15 countries in Europe conducted by Microsoft finding that become interested in so-called STEM subjects around the age of 11 and then quickly lose interest when they’re 15.