Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Health & Parenting

Font Size

How Boys and Girls Learn Differently

Does your son's fidgeting and wriggling mean he’s checked out at school? Don't worry -- he's perfectly normal.
WebMD Magazine - Feature
Reviewed by Roy Benaroch, MD

Shortly after my son started his first year of elementary school, I asked him to name his favorite subject. "Basketball," he answered without skipping a beat. "Everything else is boring."

Declarations like this -- "I like recess and P.E. best!"-- from young boys about their school experience sometimes raise concern for parents. But according to Michael Gurian, co-founder of the educational research and training Gurian Institute and author of The Minds of Boys: Saving Our Sons From Falling Behind in School and Life, they shouldn't. Parents should actually take these words as a clue about how their child learns. "What they are saying," Gurian says, "is, 'If you want me to learn well, you have to understand how my brain and body work when I learn.'"

Boy Brains and Girl Brains

Studies show that boys learn differently than girls. Brain scans tell part of the story. In general, more areas of girls' brains, including the cerebral cortex (responsible for memory, attention, thought, and language) are dedicated to verbal functions. The hippocampus -- a region of the brain critical to verbal memory storage -- develops earlier for girls and is larger in women than in men. "That has a profound effect on vocabulary and writing," Gurian says.

In boys' brains, a greater part of the cerebral cortex is dedicated to spatial and mechanical functioning. So boys tend to learn better with movement and pictures rather than just words, Gurian says.

"If teachers let boys draw a picture or story board before sitting down to write," he says, "they'll be better able to access color and other details about what they are writing. They can access more information."

There are also biochemical differences. Boys have less serotonin and oxytocin -- hormones that play a role in promoting a sense of calm -- than girls. That's why it's more likely that young boys will fidget and act impulsively. "Teachers think the boy who can't sit still and is wriggling in his chair and making noise is being defiant," Leonard Sax, MD, author of Why Gender Matters and Boys Adrift, says. "But he isn't. He can't be quiet.”

Sax says there are no differences between boys and girls in terms of what they can learn. "But there are," he says, "big differences in the way to teach them."

Today on WebMD

Girl holding up card with BMI written
Is your child at a healthy weight?
toddler climbing
What happens in your child’s second year.
father and son with laundry basket
Get your kids to help around the house.
boy frowning at brocolli
Tips for dealing with mealtime mayhem
mother and daughter talking
child brushing his teeth
Sipping hot tea
Young woman holding lip at dentists office
Which Vaccines Do Adults Need
rl with friends
tissue box
Child with adhd