By Camilla Turner of the Daily Telegraph

Boys are better at physics because they learn about "projection" while going to the toilet, researchers claim.

From a young age, boys are taught about how to aim accurately so that they do not make a mess in the bathroom, and this gives them a better understanding of "projectile motion", according to three academics.

Writing for the Times Education Supplement (TES), Anna Wilson of Abertay University and Kate Wilson and David Low of the University of New South Wales Canberra, explained their theory.

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"Playful urination practices - from seeing how high you can pee to games such as Peeball (where men compete using urine to destroy a ball in a urinal) - may give boys an advantage over girls when it comes to physics," they wrote.

The researchers said they have examined gender differences in achievement on physics tests, and found that girls generally perform worse than boys, but with a more marked gap in specific topic areas.

"In particular, the largest gaps in performance between girls and boys arise in questions that involve projectile motion - things that have been thrown, kicked, fired, etc," they said.

"On some projectile questions, we've seen only around one-third of girls answer correctly, compared to two-thirds of boys. This isn't a trivial gap in performance, particularly when a diagnostic test may contain several questions on projectiles."

They said this is significant since the UK physics curriculum often uses projectile motion as the starting point for more sophisticated mechanical concepts such as force, energy and momentum.

"This is even done because it is assumed to be more familiar, and hence easier to relate to," they said.

The researchers concluded that there is "no simple way" to provide girls with the same opportunities for exploring projectile motion that boys have.

This article originally appeared on the Daily Telegraph and is reproduced with permission.