Teaching the Female Student in Math Class by Stacy Johnson, Math teacher at New Haven School

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Girls and their math abilities:

There is a stereo type that girls are inferior at math. However, current research has debunked this myth. In fact girls perform at the same level as boys when they are “given the right educational tools and have visible female role models excelling in mathematics.”1 One factor that helps feed the myth is girls appear to have less confidence when it comes to their math abilities than boys do. However, research has shown that much of lack of confidence does not come from biological make up; it comes from social and cultural factors. One study found that female elementary school students who have a female teacher that struggles with her own math ability also struggle with math. The boys in this same class do not appear to be affected by the teachers’ lack of confidence. Further more, the value we as schools, teachers, and families put on math education directly affects the math ability of our female students to succeed in math class. Women have come along way in math and science fields. “Half of medical students and 48% of undergraduate math majors are female.”2 A few simple things we can do to help our students are first, believe in them. We need to have confidence in their ability to do well in math. Second, we need to let them know we value math education. As we do these things we can help sideline the myth that girls are inferior in math.

1. Science Daily; Few Gender Differences in Math abilities, Worldwide Study finds.
a. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/011100105112303.htm
2. Science daily; Females are equal to males in math skills, large study shows
a. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/101011223927.htm