The Learning Curve for Boys: Is it Different?

image thumb3 The Learning Curve for Boys: Is it Different?

Studies show there are real differences between boys and girls in terms of brain chemistry, maturation and how they learn best.  Technologies such as PET scans and MRIs have already found “at least 100 differences in male and female brains,” and there are likely more discoveries to come.

The following information uncovers some key insights into boys and how they learn:

Reasoning

Brain-based research shows that there are major differences between boys and girls in terms of reasoning and brain development, which leads to differences in general understanding of concepts as well as test-taking abilities.

  • Boys “tend toward symbolic texts, diagrams, and graphs” that “stimulate the right hemisphere, which is where many boys are more developed.”
  • They typically use abstract and deductive reasoning to reach conclusions, meaning that they are able to learn a general concept and then apply that concept to other individual cases.
  • Boys’ proficiency in deductive reasoning leads to greater success on multiple choice tests, particularly those where answering questions quickly is an advantage, like the SAT.

Movement

In order to learn most effectively, boys must stay active, engaged and motivated.

  • Staying active is an integral piece of effective learning for boys. “Movement seems to help boys not only stimulate their brains, but also manage and relieve impulsive behavior.”
  • Movement increases blood flow to the limbic region of the brain, allowing boys to process emotions and reduce stress.
  • “Physical exercise is essential for… boys.  It helps calm them, helps them sleep at night, and helps them perform learning tasks.”

Structure

A highly structured and action-packed day keeps boys’ minds alert and active.

  • Daily structure helps stimulate motivation, goal-orientation and time management skills.  In fact, the highly structured, full-day schedules of top boarding schools and military academies can be particularly beneficial
  • Task-oriented work and active interaction with learning materials increase the amount of information absorbed by boys’ brains.
  • A structured plan gives a boy’s brain a direct route to a goal, managing stimulation from other sources and increasing focus.
  • Calendars can be useful tools for boys since they provide visual and spatial representations of what they need to accomplish and how much time they have to complete the task.

Motivation

Boys tend to get bored more easily than girls.

  • The male brain literally requires a “recharge” between tasks, meaning that the brain goes into a rest state before moving on to something new.
  • “Boys require more and varying stimulants to keep them attentive” and to decrease the length of time that the brain is at rest.
  • Focusing on a goal maintains boys’ concentration and paves the way for success both in school and in life beyond the classroom.

Teams

Both boys and girls can benefit from working on teams through learning about cooperation and teamwork.

  • Boys differ from girls because they tend to “[pick] leaders quickly and [focus] right away on goal orientation.”
  • When supervised carefully, teams can be used to promote healthy competition, which often serves as strong motivation for boys to learn and succeed.
  • “Boys tend to work out codes among themselves and within their own cognitive processes, and rely on coded language to communicate,” which strengthens the bond within a team, while increasing learning through the use of symbolism and abstract thinking.

Boys Do Learn Differently

In summary, boys follow a unique learning curve, one that can be significantly enhanced in an environment that appreciates the differences between genders.  A setting that recognizes the cognitive, emotional and social processes which motivate boys to reach their full potential is the optimal learning environment for boys.

Recommended Resources:

I recommend the following additional reading resources to help you understand your boy’s brain more!

For Boy fun, education ideas, and more be sure to follow my Boy Stuff for Boy Moms Pinterest Board!



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About Kelli Miller

My husband (Ricky) of 15 years, our three wild and wonderfully different little boys, one totally spoiled little dog named Annie, and I live in a small town on the coast of Southern Alabama.

Comments

  1. I’m a developmental psychologist. I work in research on boys, but I also was a Girl Scout leader for many years, so I worked with a lot of girls from different backgrounds.

    The information you have here is likely to be very helpful to parents who are having trouble understanding how to work with their boys, in particular to mothers with a typical female style who have sons with a typical male style.

    However, it’s important to realize that “typical of boys” and “unique to boys” are not the same thing. Yes, these are traits that are more common in boys than in girls, but not all boys have these traits, and some girls do have these traits. In particular, I’ve seen the strategies under “structure” be wildly effective with girls who have trouble focusing or seem lost about how to approach a task.

    So I think it’s important for parents of both boys and girls to read this with an open mind: “Is this my child? Do we need to make some changes to help him/her learn and manage better?”
    ‘Becca´s last blog post ..How I told my child the Easter story

    • Ah, but as a Mom of all boys who isn’t overly girly, I can only go by what I know. ;-) I agree, I have seen some girls that would benefit 100% with these suggestions, though. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and weigh in with your expertise. :-)

    • Lori Moritz says:

      Your Posts Are Really Intriguing! I am Having Some Challenges With My Six YeaR Old Son In Terms Of Teamwork And Motivation. he Does See PT And OT For Sensory Issues And Social Delays. I Was Wondering If You Had Any Tips Or References You could Recommend To Help Me Understand Ans Help My Son?

  2. Wow. You just nailed my 9 year old son. In my first year of home schooling, I have noticed all of the above learning patterns. Thanks for helping me understand why.

  3. Thanks for these tips. I do homework every morning with my 6yr old boy. Afterschool is a bust, there’s no hope of concentration and every promise of a meltdown. I am going to try and find ways to help him read and learn his numbers by moving. This very subdued mamma needs to find a way to be engaging. lol.

  4. Leandra Cate says:

    Hi there! I enjoyed the post above. But I don’t see any references? I have definitely come across this ‘boys learn differently’ idea many times in the mere 18 months that I have been a parent. I would love to read the actual research that supports this idea. We rarely hear if there is a specific age group to which this applies or how these differences might help us figure out how to teach girls. If you know of an evidence based book on this topic or a specific study that supports these conclusions, I would be so grateful to see it. Thanks!

  5. Thank you for the information and inspiration…
    http://lisa.voidcast.ca/?p=28997

    Lisa
    Lisa Reinsch-Johnson´s last blog post ..ZOMG

  6. I am a reading specialist and special education teacher and I love your post. Many years ago I took a workshop on books and the differences between boys and girls. It was interesting and now important since I have a son. Between working with students and seeing how the boys and girls interact at daycare, there is a big difference. Going to pin this babe. thanks.
    karen´s last blog post ..MOMMY’S MEALS #2

  7. I have a son with autism who is mainstreamed and these principle totally apply to him. I just wish schools and teachers would embrace this. My son gets to have more breaks and physical activity in school because of his IEP, but not all boys do. Thanks for sharing your information.
    Christa´s last blog post ..DIY Yarn Doll

    • Christa, as the Mother of 3 boys, one who is also in the Autism Spectrum (with an IQ pushing 150) it is amazing to me that in the learning environment, the differences between “just plain boys” and “boys with disabilities” the differences are really not all that great. Boys are boys no matter what other label we put on them. LOL!

      So glad that these tips can help you and your Son!

  8. Thank you for your insight. As a mother of four boys, I found it a great refresher on remembering the unique way they look at the world. Homework is such a struggle for my son and I’m always trying to enthuse him, it’s so good to be reminded that his brain is wired to receive information best in a hands on method. (Although he is most keen to get it over and done with in the quickest way possible!)
    Caitlin´s last blog post ..Book Club Suggestions

  9. This is excellent! I am a teacher of blind and visually impaired students, but have an emphasis in literacy. I’ve long thought that boys and the way they learn are so different from girls and so different from how they’re taught in schools. Good for you posting this. I learned a lot.

  10. Hello from Boy Mama Teacher Mama and the After School Linky. Love what you shared here. Going to hop over to your FB page right now and like your page. Thanks for sharing at After School!

  11. I recently read a fantastic book on this subject. “Boys Adrift” by Leonard Sax ( he is a medical doctor, and he also has his masters in psychology). He cites many studies that have been done on how boys learn best. In my opinion, its a “must read” for anyone with boys.

  12. First off, I’m sure we could be best friends since you are another “Kelli with an i” ;-) AND I live in Alabama. I’m just not lucky enough to live by the coast!

    I just wanted to thank you for this post. I have twins, boy/girl, and the girl is the typical girl – doing great in school, no problems. But with my precious boy, he’s much as described above. We are struggling in public school (3rd grade 9 years old). My husband and I are decided that we will begin homeschool at some point in the future. I really think my son would benefit from the one-on-one instruction as well as my husband’s input in how to help my son learn. He had pretty much the same struggles as my son and it took him 17 years to get his GED after high school. But I do worry how I will do as his teacher. I’m too much of a push-over some times.

    What curriculums/strategies do you recommend for active boys, who struggle with reading/spelling/memorizing multiplication facts? Any advice you can give would be most appreciated.

    Thanks,
    Your new best friend Kelli D. ;-)
    Kelli D.´s last blog post ..Neither Poverty Nor Riches

    • I pulled my oldest out in the 2nd grade and homeschooled him for years. He just wasn’t doing well in the classroom setting. I have several ideas for getting those sight words in the younger crowd, but nothing for the older boys. Give me a week or so to pull some things together! My wheels are spinning with ideas. :-) Thanks bunches!!

  13. sherrin stanbrook says:

    that was great learnt more about my boy who is struggling with school thanks so much.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Originally posted at The Learning Curve for Boys [...]

  2. [...] As the mother of 3 rather active and unique boys (regardless of the twins’ identical LOOKING status) I am always a wee bit curious about whether or not they learn the same way as girls… if there are things I should be doing that as their mother I would not necessarily see without some sort of prompting. So I was rather pleased when I came across a blog post by the site 3 Boys and a Dog titled The Learning Curve for Boys: Is it Different? (You can read the post in its entirety HERE.) [...]

  3. […] The Learning Curve for Boys: Is it Different? {Three Boys and a Dog} […]