From: Mary Lou
To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion
Subject: Factors that affect girls in math
We can also show that more men than women go on to professional careers in music, yet girls achievement levels are equal in the elementary years. I am not writing this to be sarcastic but rather to say that at younger ages both girls and boys are high achievers in many areas. As the students age they choose areas that are of interest to them. In the past half century there has been concern that girls have been denied access to areas that do interest them: such as research science, medicine, law. Presently, we see that women are seeking these careers. The concern about girls in science and mathematics is serious because it is about the time that girls become interested in boys that serious study of math and science begins: grade 8 or 9. The academic interests of girls change because their approach to study changes. Young teenage girls are for the most part not openly competitive. Yes, they are competitive but in their own manner. They like to share their ideas, compare their ideas and test their ideas. In short: young girls are good team players. Young boys go for the answer! Young girls go for the process. What has this to do with the achievement of young women? When the atmosphere of the academic setting is contra to their style of learning and discourse, they choose not to pursue such learning. They find areas that are less stressful for them and that compliment their talents. Is this true of all young girls? No, but it is true of many young girls. How do teachers change the gender makeup of their upper level math and science courses? I believe that they change the environment, the traditional competitive, fast pace to accomodate different learning styles. Innovative methods of inquiry, less stress on quick response solutions, and alternative solutions help young women. As a teacher of highly talented juniors, I found that the teacher who subsequently taught them always told me that my students spent so much time explaining and approaching a problem! I took that as a compliment while it was not meant to be.
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