Gender and Math

There is no arguing against the fact that men outnumber women in math related fields. Do you know how your girls think about gender and math? How they see their identity as a girl and/or as a mathematician. To gain some more insight I decided to ask a number of my female sixth grade students how they see gender play out at our school. These were their answers…

“It doesn’t matter if you’re a boy or a girl. Anyone can be good at math.”

“I think girls are better at math because they try harder and concentrate more on their future.”

“Well usually boys like math and girls like reading because girls are better at reading.”

“Girls are better at everything!”

“Girls are better…yeah, I think girls are better students in sixth grade”

“I don’t know. I don’t think there’s a difference.”

“Well the smartest kid at math at our school is a girl, so I think girls are better.”

I was happily surprised that only one of the girls I interviewed said that they thought boys were better at math. Maybe this has to do with eleven and twelve year old being rather self-absorbed and always thinking they’re in the right, therefore their gender being the best. Maybe it’s because in elementary schools girls tend to be seen as the better-behaved or more studious gender. I’d like to think that it’s because they have has strong female teachers ;) .  But either way it brings up a new question for me – at what point does the shift happen where we find more men in high education mathematics class and in the math related job force? While we continue to build up intelligent problem solving young ladies, I hope that you are encouraged by some of the statements my students made. I love seeing them be confident and proud of being a girl, and being someone who loves math!

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