The following post, as well as future Friday FemFacts posts, is written by a wonderful mathematician, writer, and former Marine, Gemma Brodney. She has volunteered to write and support Marinagraphy in its pursuits of female empowerment. She has a fresh perspective and a new voice, which I think we will all benefit from. Welcome to Marinagraphy, Gemma.
Friday’s FemFacts: Girls have less confidence in their quantitative abilities than do boys. This may come as no surprise to you; however, there is more to the story. Girls at the high school level are getting higher grades in math than are boys; girls are earning more high school math credits than boys, too. One may conclude from these figures that girls would be getting at least equal scores as boys on STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) related Advanced Placement tests in high school or equivalent scores on the math section of the SAT. Unfortunately, girls are scoring lower on both of these important types of tests. Why?
Cornell University conducted a study of young Americans ranging in ages from 8th grade till 2 years out from high school. This study asked participants to indicate whether or not a particular statement described their feelings accurately. They were presented with statements like: “I have always done well in math”; “I get good grades in math”; and “I like math. Boys proved to be much more enthusiastic and confident than girls were about math. This seems strange after we just read that girls were getting better grades and taking more high school math credits. What’s going on?
How is the United States going to remain competitive in the global economy if it continues to lag behind other nations in math and science education? Right now , according to the Program for International Student Assessment, the US ranks 17th in math education. This is not how we are going to “win the future”; it’s time for all Americans to start recognizing, valuing, and encouraging math and science education, particularly amongst girls.
How do we begin?
Let’s start by celebrating and admiring a young girl’s intelligence. How often were we told that we were pretty or cute or ladylike as girls? All the time!! This encourages you to make yourself cuter or prettier, or more charming, etc. Imagine what young women could accomplish if they sought praise for their mastery of the Periodic Table or long division?