The CataLyst: The Myth About Maths

Last year the Institute For Fiscal Studies published a report stating that children who are good at maths at the age of 10 will go on to earn 7% more at 30 than an “otherwise identical” child. It’s worrying then, with the already existing salary gap, that girls are trailing behind boys in maths in many developed countries. The latest results from the OECD Pisa Test show that in most countries girls underperform boys in mathematics; among the highest-achieving students, the gender gap in favour of boys is even wider.

Nature vs. Nurture
But boys are not innately better at maths than girls right? For a long time, the performance gap in maths between boys and girls was explained using nature and biology. Boys were more logical, and girls more creative. Recently though, more and more research supports the nurture over nature argument. If this is true (which I think it is), it’s really scary that according to code.org, the cultural side is getting worse. The numbers are terrifying and fewer girls are doing maths, physics and computer subjects at school here in the UK.

Last year, the UK education minister Liz Truss, said the gender gap is a result of girls’ lack of confidence in themselves. This makes me think sometimes even the best role models cannot counteract the societal and cultural pressures faced by girls. There may be a clear link between confidence and performance, but despite the bleak figures there is hope.

Social Equality and Equality in STEM
If we look at the figures on a global scale, the maths gender gap in certain countries is almost non-existent. These are the countries that also happen to offer more equal opportunities and resources to men and women. The general correlation has been found that in more equitable societies, the STEM gender gap is significantly reduced. In countries like Iceland, Sweden and Norway the results from various tests show no difference in how girls and boys perform, whereas in countries like Turkey and even the UK, girls scored on average 23 and 14 points less than boys respectively.

I know that here in the UK, we like to think of ourselves as forward thinking, equal and progressive – and to a certain extent we are – but the numbers speak for themselves. Girls are not worse than boys at STEM subjects, but it’s difficult to be the first girl doing a Physics A-Level if none of your girlfriends are. It can’t be down to the individual alone to change the view of society. Although young girls all over the country and the world are already going against the trend, something needs to happen on a larger scale.

The way we view girls in media influences the way girls look at themselves.

We have to ask ourselves what can by done by government, locally in our communities, through schools and parenting, as well as on social media to change the culture and perceptions of girls in STEM. Only then will we be able to offer equal opportunities and give girls the chance to prove gender doesn’t matter.

Do You Want Your Daughter to Excel at Math and Science? Get a Little Help From GEMS

The clubs are run by volunteers and paid teachers who want to help girls become interested or stay interested in STEM fields as education or careers. Estimated at having over 8,000 members over its 20-year history, there are GEMS clubs in every state and some international clubs. The organization is expanding age groups, adding more girls, adding more countries, all while continuing the experience for its many members.

[ via Geek Dad ]

“The Simpsons” Has Been Tricking You Into Learning Math for Decades

Academics have pored over The Simpsons for its insights into philosophy and psychology, but it took physicist Simon Singh, the author of previous books about cryptography, the Big Bang, and Fermat’s Enigma, to tap a vein of knowledge that runs even deeper in the animated world of Springfield: math.

[ via Wired ]

Algebra Doesn’t Have to Be Scary

Many community-college students never make it to graduation because they can’t pass developmental, or remedial, math. Two courses from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and its partners prove that a more engaging curriculum and teaching method can help students succeed.

[ via The Atlantic ]

The Need for Belonging in Math and Science

In an excellent paper from 2007, Gregory Walton and Geoffrey Cohen showed that in academic and professional settings, members of socially stigmatized groups were more uncertain of the quality of their social bonds and more sensitive to issues of social belonging. They called this “belonging uncertainty”, and they found it contributed to racial disparities in achievement.

[ via Scientific American ]

Truth Comes to Texas A&M in Play Exploring Gender, Academia

The autobiographical show is written and performed by self-described “recovering mathematician” Gioia De Cari, who channels more than 30 roles on stage to relate her experience as a mathematics graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

[ via Texas A&M University ]

Americans Grade Math as the Most Valuable School Subject

Men overwhelmingly say math has been the most valuable subject in their lives, with English and science essentially tied for second. Women are as likely to mention English as math as the most valuable subject.

[ via Gallup ]

Are Girls Really More Anxious About Math?

The researchers suggested lower self-reported math abilities in mathematics may be the reason behind the discrepancy in levels of anxiety reported by girls. The team posited the generalized survey may actually support inaccurate beliefs about female math competence, negatively biasing girls’ self-assessments and aggravating their math anxiety.

[ via redOrbit ]

Terri Oda, Mathematician, Debunks ‘Women Are Bad At Math’ Myth In Brilliant Slideshow

Women in computing tend to have to waste an awful lot of time answering questions related to being a woman in computing. Case in point: My male colleagues are doing science while I’m taking time to answer this email. So I wanted to make something short, funny, and easy to pass around so women could turn those stupid arguments on their heads.

[ via The Huffington Post ]

Boys will be boys: Gender divide is growing fast at A-levels

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teachers’ union, added: “This is an issue that the Government cannot ignore as it could have serious ramifications for the future education and employment options for boys and girls.”

[ via The Independent ]