When it comes to representation of the female gender in mathematical career fields, women are poorly represented (according to Studypug.com). Thankfully, we are not only starting to understand why this happens but also when the interest in this subject wanes.
First of all, anecdotal and statistical evidence shows that women are still battling gender identity role crises, even as of our modern day. Marketing and media can often point women in the direction of more caregiving and domestic jobs, regardless of the effort not to.
Boy Toys – Girl Toys?
For example, while shopping in a popular department store not long ago, the store had inappropriately (and infuriatingly, to me) labeled the toy section by “girls toys” and by “boys toys”. And I’m sure you can imagine what was located under the girls toys sign – yes, it was dolls, baking supplies, kitchen sets, and play-mops. Meanwhile, the boys section was full of fire trucks, construction sets, and Lego.
Who is to say that my daughter doesn’t want to play with Lego? And that your son doesn’t want to bake? And further, why do we need gender differentiation at such an impressionable age?
Stereotypes About Girls and Math
Simply put, up until a certain age, both girls and boys approach math, science and technology the same, but then at around ages 7 to 12, girls start to gain a stronger sense of identity, and become more aware of stereotypes – like the one that was plastered up on a sign at the department store.
As it stands, most times the ones who choose to pursue the mathematically driven courses are males. And while the number of women who pursue math is higher than it used to be, there is still an astonishing deviation from college to graduate school and beyond.
What has been discovered as of late, though, is that a person’s sense of place in mathematics is established at a young age, in elementary school. In fact, studies have shown that by second grade, the gender role in mathematics is determined.
This study also showed that often girls develop an opinion that boys are better at math than girls and that because she is a girl, math is not a correct choice for her. Of course, this can be generalized, as not every girl is deterred from math, and not every boy is encouraged. But these are only individuals, not systems, and within the systems there are problems.
One of the problems here involves the fact that simply put, some students identify more with mathematics than others. Luckily, if we can inspire them (especially girls) to learn and love math as early as six years old, we can help to break this cycle.
Tips to Encourage Girls to Love Math
Here are some things that parents, caregivers and teachers can do to get girls to love math:
• Get her around women who love math. If you are her female teacher or her mother, let your love of math reflect onto her.
• Find women role models who embrace mathematics.
• Do math around them and invite them to participate.
• Play games with them, such Sudoku. Solve puzzles with them.
• Talk about math everywhere you go
• Apply math in her daily life (counting colored cars, types of trees etc.)
• Change your own relationship to math from one of fear to one of love.
To encourage girls to love math, you have to implement a system and commit to it. It will take time. By developing a healthy and nurturing culture of mathematics at home, with the women in their lives, can change their view of mathematics from one of exclusion to one of welcome.