Differences in Neural Anatomy
Male and female brains physically look different. According to this article from Salon, “The fact that there are differences in neural anatomy between the two sexes, however, is undisputed. The differences are present in early fetal life, as hormones already have altered the destiny of brain regions that are set up to go either way in the embryo. This is called sexual dimorphism, and one region that is heavily altered by early differences in levels of the female hormone estrogen or the male hormone testosterone is the hypothalamus.”
A post from education.com tells us that boys have more gray matter, while girls have more white matter in their brains. “Gray matter localizes brain activity in a single part of the brain, rather than spreading to other parts of the brain. White matter connects brain activity to different parts of the brain, including emotion centers.”
Waffle vs. Spaghetti Brains
It’s been scientifically proven that boy and girl brains don’t just look different, but are wired differently. I love the “Waffle brain vs. Spaghetti brain” analogy from this article from archnews.com. They studied brain scans of men and women when solving a problem.
“When men put their minds to work, the neuron activity in their brains lit up in highly specialized areas. When women put their minds to work, the neuron activity in their brains lit up throughout their brains.”
Basically, the male brain is wired to compartmentalize information, like the precise, individual squares in a big Belgian waffle.
The female brain, on the other hand, has a lot of thoughts going on at once; picture a plate of spaghetti, with the ability to smoothly slide from one thought to the other.
Male brain tendencies:
Female brain tendencies:
How to Use This in Your Classroom
I feel like the world makes so much more sense now! There is just no denying it. Boys’ and girls’ brains are inherently different, yet neither is “better” than the other. Here are a few ideas to incorporate this new knowledge.
Remember both have strengths and weaknesses:
Whenever you are grouping your class, keep in mind boys and girls have various strengths and weaknesses. So, whether they are having a group discussion or solving a problem together, consider mixing up boys and girls. This will maximize their strengths, while minimizing their weaknesses!
The collaboration of different mental approaches may help them to put all the pieces together and build concepts in a stronger, more rounded way.
Allow for student choice:
Since boys and girls think differently, it’s important to acknowledge this and help them to understand their thinking as individuals. So, whenever you have the opportunity, allow students to pick and choose everything from taking notes to answering test questions.
Try things like choice boards or open-ended activities, so everyone can accomplish the same learning goal through methods that are most geared toward their own brain and preferences.
Girls may prefer to be multi-tasking with activities like doodle notes, while boys may prefer to focus in on one task or idea at a time. Plan your classes to try to accommodate the needs of both. And take input from the students! Not all of this is set in stone for every single student. Remember that these are brain-based tendencies, not laws. Many teachers have mentioned how surprised they are that the boys love multi-tasking with doodle notes as much as girls do! Kids may be surprised at what ends up helping them focus and learn.
Strategize important one-on-one conversations:
It turns out that many males are more comfortable having an important conversation while sitting or standing side-by-side, while females prefer eye contact. When you need to sit down with a student, consider walking down the hall with a teen boy while chatting about the important topic, or sit down in the chair next to him in the classroom. While tackling a tough conversation with a teen girl, try to instead pull a chair around to the other side of the desk so you can face her.
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