In a study of 32 two-year-olds, a research team led by Alicia Chang of the University of Delaware found that American mothers use explicit quantifications (e.g. “four crayons”) 2.7 times more frequently when speaking to boys than to girls.
According to the researchers, greater amounts of early number-related talk may promote familiarity and liking for mathematical concepts, which may influence later preferences and career choices.
Although gender-stereotypical use of language may be inadvertent, past research shows it can affect children's interests and their perception of their own numerical competence.
So watch what you say to your kids the next time you want to talk about something.
Proud father of two lovely kids, who at times pushed me to seriously consider editing out the word “lovely” from this sentence. (I am not alone in this.)