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zarabellesmom

Math for Girls, Math for Boys

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http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/04/girls-math-international-competiton/478533/

 

Did anyone else see this? It was especially disappointing to read the statement that girls as young as second grade were relying on gender stereotypes that tell them that math is for boys.

 

Anyone with girls want to chime in on whether they think these same stereotypes persist among homeschooled girls?

 

I know that in our house my husband and I both have science backgrounds and are strong in math. I have two girls and both are good math students who enjoy math. I challenge anyone to tell my children that girls aren't supposed to be good at math. My oldest would just look at them like they were clueless and my youngest would probably punch them.

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Well, I'm the kind of person who does the exact thing people tell me I am incapable of doing. This would explain why I have my undergrad degree in mathematics. (LOL)

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The self confidence and stereotype starts in K in public schools because many female K teachers aren't confident in math. My oldest had a female K teacher who is strong in math and her first degree was economics. However even she has a bias towards asians being stronger in math regardless of gender. The same stereotype goes for science and reverse stereotype for writing.

 

Walk into AMC8/10/12 test sites here and it is predominantly asian and a few caucasians when you look at the girls taking.

 

Among my neighbors, I find the B&M school girls with a mom good in math would have more confidence than one whose mom has less interest in math, even if dad is fantastic at math. The moms would say wait for dad to help with math and science homework and that puts a damper on confidence.

 

The homeschool girls I know who take the homeshool physics class with my oldest has engineers and doctors for moms. A very skewed sample.

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The self confidence and stereotype starts in K in public schools because many female K teachers aren't confident in math.

 

This. Girls want to please their teachers and subconsciously emulate them. We encountered an elementary teacher while my kids were in ps who did not understand percent.

 

Based on my experiences on this forum, I am not convinced the situation is very different in a homeschool, since I have read many posts by homeschooling mothers who are not confident in math, dislike math, do not find math important,  and those attitudes are picked up by children and emulated especially by girls.

 

I never had any issues with math. I had an extremely capable and enthusiastic male math teacher from 5th grade on. My kids grow up in a home where both parents have an extensive background in higher math.

 

ETA: But the idea of a female-only math competition rubs me the wrong way. because I do not believe that it accomplishes just creating greater confidence - it may well send the message that girls can't play  math in the same league as boys.

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Yes, yes it is prevalent among my local homeschool circle. DD/5th and DS/7th were on a MOEMS team this year. There was one other family with sisters on the team. All the other kids were male.  When DD/5th and DD/2nd competed in the Mathnasium Trimathalon in the fall they were definitely in the minority, for being both girls and very Caucasion. Aside from those little niches it's very common to hear comments associating, math, robots, Minecraft, and such with the boys. Just yesterday while waiting for one kid to get out of a meeting a mom made a comment about Minecraft being a boy thing. Saying my girls actually really enjoy creating and building in Minecraft/math/astronomy/forensics/you-name-it usually just elicits an, "Oh, really?" and a subject change.

 

FWIW, neither DH or I went very far in math, and I'm a humanities mom through and through. In our homeschool we do customize curricula for each individual kid and play up to their strengths and strong interests. I've been learning more STEM from trying to keep up with my middle two children than I ever have, but I'm positive they will exceed my math abilities.

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Perhaps boys are less likely to be as attentive to public opinion and less likely to seek approval, and so aren't as influenced by stereotypes at as young of an age as girls. Perhaps that's a stereotype too though.

 

In addition to looking at the level of the mother's confidence in math, I'd be curious about girls who grew up in an otherwise all male household. I did and I'm comfortable with math.

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It isn't a stereotype within the walls of our homeschool, but it doesn't change the fact that my really strong math dd dislikes math.  :)  My life would be easier if she wanted to pursue a STEM career, so it definitely is not coming from me!

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I always feel a bit weird in these discussions since I'm raising a kid who wants to be a mathematician, or a scientist, and he's a boy. A very white boy. Oh no! I'm perpetuating the status quo! lol.

 

I'm not sure where he got his math-love from. DH and I are not mathy people. We're both scrambling to keep up with him.

 

Recently, I was able to take him to a math talk by a female mathematician (who wowed with a perfect demonstration of the 5-pancake flip). We also got to visit a quantum computing lab with a female PhD student. And he went to a micro-bit workshop run by mostly women (some of whom design computer games for a living - super wow) and his coding partner was a girl. So I hope that one day, if he does do math or science competitions, he will not contribute to any inherent sexism, and will see female teammates as simply natural and ordinary. But that means there needs to be some female teammates, and I have no idea how to make that happen.

 

As for homeschooling - I once saw a statistic that homeschooled (college bound ones, I think) were weaker in math than LA overall. Just thinking of my own experience and other homeschooled kids I knew, I think this sounds about right. Math wasn't something people really talked about, unless they were preaching the glories of Saxon or something. And for me personally, my parents invested a lot more in my brother's math education than mine. Well, they invested in his education overall a lot more than mine, I just hung on to the ends and the best of what I could, but when it came to math where good instruction is important it really hurt. 

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As for homeschooling - I once saw a statistic that homeschooled (college bound ones, I think) were weaker in math than LA overall. Just thinking of my own experience and other homeschooled kids I knew, I think this sounds about right. Math wasn't something people really talked about, unless they were preaching the glories of Saxon or something.

 

My personal experience would confirm the bolded for every homeschooling family I know IRL, except our own.

 

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Honestly, this is part of one big reason that I homeschool. To keep my daughter out of the gender stereotype machine until she is secure enough in herself to not succumb to the pressure. She's nearly 11 and so far, so good. She literally glares at people who may suggest that girls are not as good as boys at something. She is very intuitive at maths (like I was - but never encouraged!) and she has absolute confidence that she is good at math!

 

I do see that the home schoolers around me tend to either like math and take teaching it seriously, or they outsource it - MUS is very popular. I'm not saying that's a bad thing! They are not in any way trying to ignore maths. But they both fall under same side of the bigger divide that I see, people who actively work to give their kids a great education, and people who... don't. I had someone ask me if they really hard to teach up through algebra (she only had a boy). Ummm... yes. Yes you do, or you outsource that.

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Honestly, this is part of one big reason that I homeschool. To keep my daughter out of the gender stereotype machine until she is secure enough in herself to not succumb to the pressure. She's nearly 11 and so far, so good.

 

I found that the stereotypes did not just extend to math, but that the general anti-intellectual sentiment in this country creates a culture of celebrating mediocrity.

My 5th grader had classmates tell her to her face "Dumb down a bit, you make us look stupid".

Thanks - I don't need that kind of environment for my kids.

 

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As for homeschooling - I once saw a statistic that homeschooled (college bound ones, I think) were weaker in math than LA overall.

When people mention Logic, they usually think of rhetoric logic and does not associate logic with math. Traditionally this country homeschool for religious and/or classical reasons which end up with a stronger LA emphasis. Just look at all the latin threads and the recent NME thread on this forum for example.

 

I think it boils down to family expectations and culture in the homeschool environment.

 

Also it is hard to see a need for math higher than prealgebra for daily life unless in a profession that use math often. While everyone is suppose to be able to write great ACT, SAT and college applications essays.

 

I faced stereotypes as a high school kid with tippy top math and english scores for school exams. Girls who take calculus and physics are supposed to be bad at languages :P If people didn't know I am in the engineering track in high school, they would look at me winning english competitions and think I am pathetic at math. My hubby like languages and think he isn't as good at it because of the stereotype. My male cousins are effectively multilingual engineers so that was encouraging to hubby. Our engineering technical writing teachers think all engineers can't write (rolleyes).

 

My oldest LA scores are as decent as his math scores and while he may not put much effort, he wants to be effectively multilingual (translating with ease for speaking and writing from one language to another).

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I always feel a bit weird in these discussions since I'm raising a kid who wants to be a mathematician, or a scientist, and he's a boy. A very white boy. Oh no! I'm perpetuating the status quo! lol.

 

I'm not sure where he got his math-love from. DH and I are not mathy people. We're both scrambling to keep up with him.

 

Recently, I was able to take him to a math talk by a female mathematician (who wowed with a perfect demonstration of the 5-pancake flip). We also got to visit a quantum computing lab with a female PhD student. And he went to a micro-bit workshop run by mostly women (some of whom design computer games for a living - super wow) and his coding partner was a girl. So I hope that one day, if he does do math or science competitions, he will not contribute to any inherent sexism, and will see female teammates as simply natural and ordinary. But that means there needs to be some female teammates, and I have no idea how to make that happen.

 

As for homeschooling - I once saw a statistic that homeschooled (college bound ones, I think) were weaker in math than LA overall. Just thinking of my own experience and other homeschooled kids I knew, I think this sounds about right. Math wasn't something people really talked about, unless they were preaching the glories of Saxon or something. And for me personally, my parents invested a lot more in my brother's math education than mine. Well, they invested in his education overall a lot more than mine, I just hung on to the ends and the best of what I could, but when it came to math where good instruction is important it really hurt. 

 

Ha! You aren't perpetuating the status quo... Shouldn't he be asian? :blink:

 

ETA: I'm not serious of course.

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I don't think it's really too prevalent among the homeschoolers I know specifically, but it's definitely not an attitude here in my homeschool!  Around here, everyone is good at math, because math is fun!  (My dad was a math teacher.  We all did math puzzles for fun.  Math may not have ever been my favorite subject, but I like it just fine, and I have only happy feelings about math.  I never got the idea that I couldn't do math just because I was a girl.  That would be silly.  In fact, I'd say it was the opposite -- because I was a girl who was good in math, I was encouraged to go into STEM fields even though I had no interest in them.  Not by my parents, who knew my true passions better, but by the schools.)  Math is actually one of my favorite subjects to teach, because I love all the little patterns and tricks, and it is so fun to see the lightbulbs go on in the kids' heads.

 

Now, all of that being said, my only girl is a strong math student, but I would say she is neutral about it.  She doesn't hate it, but it doesn't make her light up either.  She definitely has subjects she likes less and subjects she likes more.  But I really don't think anyone has ever given her the impression that she shouldn't like or be good at math just because she's a girl; I think it's just the way she is, that other things are more exciting to her.  She doesn't care about the tricks and patterns.  My two big boys, otoh, happen to like math and think in a mathematical way, more like I do.  DD is the creative, spacial type, more like her father (and one of her little brothers looks to be heading down that path too).  I look at the types of puzzle games that we all like playing, and DH gets all the spacial ones, and I get the math ones.

 

In our house, I think we do a good job at encouraging our kids to be the people they are, to be competent at as much as they can, and to use their personal interests and gifts to the fullest.

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She is very intuitive at maths (like I was - but never encouraged!) and she has absolute confidence that she is good at math!

There are plenty of times during my school days in public school and outside classes where I had tone down my abilities a lot just not to demoralise people. I was in an all girls school from 1st to 10th and it can be demoralising to other girls to effortlessly outshine the whole cohort for math. My 9th grade math teacher let slip I had the highest score in the cohort.

 

My oldest tone down in class when he was in public school K and 1st. He has great scores for school end of year tests but no one other than his teacher and us parents know the scores. So no parent or child gets upset.

 

My family culture growing up was who cares what people think, so none of us care when people assumed we aren't that bright for whatever reason. Most of us are perfectionists though so our benchmark is already set high and unmoved by outside opinions.

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I don't think my kids are affected by that stereotype. They have probably never heard of it. I'm stronger in math than Dh and it never led my kids to conclude that math is for girls. If I suggested that a particular intellectual achievement was amazing because it had been accomplished by a woman, they would probably look at me like I had two heads and wonder why in the world I would think that was amazing. Like someone upthread, that is one of the many reasons we homeschool. The same could be applied to race or religion. It would just never occur to them that someone couldn't do something because of those things. I think the public school making such a big deal about it leads to greater stereotype.

 

I also don't think girls are pushed out of math/science. (And lest you wonder if I have no idea, my majors were science and I worked in r&d with mostly men for a long time.) There are some things about being in a male dominated field that add challenges, but none of them have to do with the actual subject matter. At this point I think women probably have great opportunity than men because of the overzealous recruiting. Sometimes differences in outcome aren't because society is unfair/biased/sexist/whatever-ist. There simply aren't as many women interested in those fields as there are men. I'm not inclined to pour billions of dollars (as a society) into trying to right a perceived but non-existent wrong. I would never-ever let my daughter participate in a girls-only math/science that was intended to be such an equalizer.

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Out of my 7, two boys are above average in math, one boy average, one girl average, and three girls below average. We have never told them that math is for boys or boys are better at math, but in our family it has worked out that way. Incidentally, all of my boys hate reading (but read well) and avoid it as much as possible. Two of my four girls would only read if they could. The other two girls dislike reading but bot have reading liabilities.

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I also don't think girls are pushed out of math/science.

 

I worked in r&d with mostly men for a long time.)

 

There simply aren't as many women interested in those fields as there are men.

One of these things is not like the other.

 

Stereotypes and the expectations they create both exist independent of individual experience.

 

Every single person on this board could say their children are unaffected by this stereotype about girls and math, and the stereotype would still be out in the world, perpetuating itself through teachers (ps, hs, otherwise) who dont like or understand mathematics.

 

That said, Im personally inclined to think its not the end of the world. My feelings about it dont change societal conditioning, though.

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There was and probably still is a stereotype of girls going into biology, pharmacy and nursing while boys go into physics and engineering. Physics at the high school level is more heavy on math then chemistry or biology.

 

Also from K-5, many local schools skip science. Girls are less likely to get "science toys" than boys. A neighbor said she didn't think to buy her daughter legos until her daughter played with her younger son's lego sets given at his birthday. So preschool girls tend to get dolls while boys tend to get legos for birthday presents.

 

I might not have been affected by the girls stereotype but I have seen and felt it. My boys have felt the boys stereotype as asian boys.

 

My dad let me dismantle the VCR to get the stucked video tape when I was a preschooler. I had a doll for a birthday present, then it was lots of legos and playmobil for presents at my request. I build lots of Lego houses, too bad I can't pass the aptitude test for school of architecture.

 

As for R&D, been there done that and found the hours crazy for moms without childcare support. I was lucky in that I was in the management aspect and could work from home after dinner and on weekends. My hubby is in R&D and had crazy hours until he reach senior rank. Now he could crunch the data from home after dinner. The people doing the data gathering sometimes don't leave the lab until past 10pm when there is a serious QC/batch issue. They email the data to my hubby before leaving the lab.

 

I would enjoy the number crunching aspect of R&D again but not now while my kids still need my nagging.

 

ETA:

It wasn't a shut down kind of stereotyping but a surprised/amazement kind of stereotyping. Like you are a girl and you are better at maths than the guys in class. The expectations were just lower from social conditioning.

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I didn't feel those stereotypes as a girl growing up. I don't think my oldest DD has run into this yet - she's incredibly capable in math, science, problem solving, and reasoning and no one has ever shut her down based on gender.

 

I did feel some of this sentiment in the research group I worked for just after undergrad. There were 5 principle researchers (all men), a dozen or so grad students (mostly male), and 4 full time high-skill lab technicians (all female). For me it was a job while DH finished his MS, before I finished my next degree, but I still had experience and a degree, and we were working at a level which required it. All the techs were treated somewhat patronizingly. Perhaps that was gender, perhaps it was the length of my lab coat.

 

I did find a very strong gender bias in the pre-vet program (which I was in for a while before changing majors). I was interested in zoo and wildlife medicine, but was told by the old-school ag-vet professors that there wasn't room for women in ag so it's a good thing I wanted to "be a zoo keeper."

 

I don't think my DS holds these stereotypes - he knows his sisters, cousin (girl), mom, and grandmother are all mathy. If anything, we struggle to convince HIM that he's good at math (which is true, but he hasnt grasped that yet).

 

My middle DD loves math, and hasn't confronted any gender biases yet. I can't really make generalizations about other homeschoolers, but I will say that our SciOly and FLL teams are about 50-50 with a sense of respect for ability (not bias on gender), and my math circles were slightly girl heavy.

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As for homeschooling - I once saw a statistic that homeschooled (college bound ones, I think) were weaker in math than LA overall.

 

But isn't that true in public schools as well?  Every single article that I've seen showing test scores for local schools show math scores that are lower than LA scores.  They get weaker the higher up you go in grade level. 

 

Edited to say that these scores are not divided by gender, though they are divided out by race. 

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What an interesting article!

 

My dd is strongly considering going on in a STEM field, and she certainly doesn't get it from me! However, I've always enjoyed math, though the highest level course I took was Pre-calculus in college. That seemed like my threshold at that time. I never did well in science, and my college major was English. My dh has always enjoyed science though, and I think passed on the science gene! I often say, "ask Dad, he probably knows." From about 5th grade on, my dd largely educated herself in science, using books we chose together (I narrowed the field, she made final selections). She consistently participated in science fairs where I considered it my role to ask questions. I told her that if I could understand her project, she could effectively do her report and presentation--so I just kept asking questions until I was satisfied she was making sense. In high school science, I make sure she understands the explanation for anything that she gets wrong, and if not, I say, "We're two intelligent women. We can figure this out together! And if not, we'll find someone who knows." 

 

So...perhaps what I didn't have in natural gifting was made up for by attitude. But the interest was there first--she drove this train!

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There was and probably still is a stereotype of girls going into biology, pharmacy and nursing while boys go into physics and engineering.

 

Is it fair to call this a "stereotype"? It is based on facts:

 

60% of bachelor degrees in biology are earned by females, compared to 20% of degrees in physics.

https://www.aps.org/programs/education/statistics/womenmajors.cfm

 

And that's just percentages. In absolute numbers, 86,000 students graduate with biology degrees each year, compared to 6,000 physics degrees. So there are 50,000 female biologists compared to 1,200 female physicists.

 

So yes, statistically speaking, girls are almost 50 times more likely to go into biology  than physics. That is not a stereotype; it is simply the numbers.

 

A correlation between major and math abilities is very evident in my classes, and I am not talking about advanced math the biologists are not required to take, but about high school level algebra and trigonometry.

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Is it fair to call this a "stereotype"? It is based on facts:

...

So yes, statistically speaking, girls are almost 50 times more likely to go into biology than physics. That is not a stereotype; it is simply the numbers.

I meant stereotype at the high school counselling level that biology led to careers that are family friendlier. They would talk about nursing degree, pharmacy degree, doctors, dentistry that allows part time work after a few years of full time work.

 

Also when a girl ask about bio or physics, the course counsellor at my junior college (11/12th grade) would usually advise biology because it is supposedly easier for a girl to get the A for bio than physics. The girls who took biology and physics either had A for both or A for bio only so that idea unfortunately gets reinforced.

 

My local middle school selects kids for algebra in 7th. No placement tests, just based on 6th grade results and teacher recommendations. Very subjective way of picking.

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I wonder if women tend toward STEM fields that include more social interaction, whereas men tend toward STEM fields that include less chit-chatty sorts of jobs, like conducting research using people vs. conducting research using machines?  

 

I also wonder if one of the reasons that homeschooled students show weaker scores in math than LA is because most of the time, it's moms doing the teaching, and we're seeing the results of girls not having been encouraged in math in earlier generations.  So now that they're teaching their own children, they don't have the skills/knowledge to teach math/help with math.  Maybe that's the case with public schools too, if it's still mostly women teaching at the elementary level when the foundations are set.  Just wondering. . .

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I meant stereotype at the high school counselling level that biology led to careers that are family friendlier. They would talk about nursing degree, pharmacy degree, doctors, dentistry that allows part time work after a few years of full time work.

 

Also when a girl ask about bio or physics, the course counsellor at my junior college (11/12th grade) would usually advise biology because it is supposedly easier for a girl to get the A for bio than physics. The girls who took biology and physics either had A for both or A for bio only so that idea unfortunately gets reinforced.

 

My local middle school selects kids for algebra in 7th. No placement tests, just based on 6th grade results and teacher recommendations. Very subjective way of picking.

Well, my highschool math teacher (female) warned me that male Engineering students don't date female Engineering students, but date the nursing students across the street. (Not referring to specific universities, but generalities...)

 

Not sure if that was why... but I never got a single solitary date in university.

 

Sent from my SM-T530NU using Tapatalk

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I wonder if women tend toward STEM fields that include more social interaction, whereas men tend toward STEM fields that include less chit-chatty sorts of jobs, like conducting research using people vs. conducting research using machines?

Two girlfriends were in R&D bio/pharma with their first degree in biology. Both are introverts who rather talk to machines. They don't need to talk at all in their jobs.

 

My lady cousin works in internet security and her department happen to be all females, and they don't need to talk at work.

 

My kids lady dentist is chatty while their previous male dentist is not. Their male pediatrician is not chatty. Their opthamologists, two females and a male in that group clinic, are not chatty.

 

I was from engineering and my day at work could be totally silent or mostly chatty. The R&D engineers I oversee can don't talk all day but they gossip while they work on things like what to buy for their wives for valentines day.

 

My girlfriends tend to be the kind who are chatty after office hours, and not while on the job. I am an extrovert who prefer to work with machines and data, leaving social chatting to outside of work.

 

The people I know regardless of gender who needs chatty work environments tend to do sales or frontline service jobs.

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Not sure if that was why... but I never got a single solitary date in university.

I have too many ex-bf, all engineering. My classmates date mainly girls from the arts faculty (history, geography, language studies) because they dress up for college including full makeup. A few dated girls from law school and school of medicine.

 

The extroverts engineering girls get dates from all over college. The introverts engineering girls get dates from their classmates or not at all. The ratio was 1:15 during my time in engineering school so not that bad. My lady lecturer had 1:50 ratio during her college days.

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I found that the stereotypes did not just extend to math, but that the general anti-intellectual sentiment in this country creates a culture of celebrating mediocrity.

My 5th grader had classmates tell her to her face "Dumb down a bit, you make us look stupid".

Thanks - I don't need that kind of environment for my kids.

 

Wow! That's awful! And I agree, there's certainly a tone taken with us sometimes, like I'm trying to create snobs or something...

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There are plenty of times during my school days in public school and outside classes where I had tone down my abilities a lot just not to demoralise people. I was in an all girls school from 1st to 10th and it can be demoralising to other girls to effortlessly outshine the whole cohort for math. My 9th grade math teacher let slip I had the highest score in the cohort.

 

My oldest tone down in class when he was in public school K and 1st. He has great scores for school end of year tests but no one other than his teacher and us parents know the scores. So no parent or child gets upset.

 

My family culture growing up was who cares what people think, so none of us care when people assumed we aren't that bright for whatever reason. Most of us are perfectionists though so our benchmark is already set high and unmoved by outside opinions.

I had some similar experiences at school. I remember an English teacher handing back assignments in order from lowest grade to highest... I was highest. Then in maths, all the boys (I was one of 3 girls in the class) had to see what the girls' test scores were, and felt very emasculated when I beat them. Same year. The English/humanities teachers were all over me trying to mentor me, the maths teacher barely knew my name. No one suggested that I might like to take more stem subjects, or go into a maths related field. I actually think I would have liked accounting and finance but they were soooo not cool.

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Thinking about this some more last night - especially about how many of the (few) girls in higher level math and science have math/tech/science parents or mom. Do you think part of the boy/girl gap is that in cases like mine, where non-mathy parents have a mathy son, there is a tendency to say "Wow! I see a well-paying career in your future! Let's go go go!" with visions of raising the next Bill Gates or something. Whereas if non-mathy parents have a mathy daughter, there's a tendency to say "Oh, that's nice dear. How nice that you get good grades. Have you ever looked into doing graphic design?" 

 

I mean, it's not like competition math is exactly well known. At least, in my corner of the Midwest I never heard about it. Everything I know about it I learned on this forum. So unless the parents already know about it, or go looking for math circles or something, I don't think they'll know how to encourage math development, and this impacts girls more than boys.

 

I heard about this Girls Olympiad a little bit ago (the Dutch sent a team) and I was a little weirded out by it. I mean, there's any number of separate but unequal girls competitions (softball, the WNBA, even the women's World Cup) but for physical pursuits you can make the case that women and men are physically different. I have difficulty seeing a separate competition for a purely mental exercise. But if it gets parents thinking about supporting their daughter's math aptitude, then I guess that's a good thing. I'd just really hate to see people start to think the IMO really is a boy's thing because the girls have their own thing. But maybe the IMO coaches are already trying to recruit the top scorers of the Girls Olympiad onto the national teams?

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I meant stereotype at the high school counselling level that biology led to careers that are family friendlier. They would talk about nursing degree, pharmacy degree, doctors, dentistry that allows part time work after a few years of full time work.

 

Also when a girl ask about bio or physics, the course counsellor at my junior college (11/12th grade) would usually advise biology because it is supposedly easier for a girl to get the A for bio than physics. The girls who took biology and physics either had A for both or A for bio only so that idea unfortunately gets reinforced.

 

My local middle school selects kids for algebra in 7th. No placement tests, just based on 6th grade results and teacher recommendations. Very subjective way of picking.

I was working towards an astrophysics major for two years in undergrad, then I realized I could not focus on the career and the kind of mother I wanted to be at the same time. So I switched to anthropology. I think its a valid thing to consider how much you really expect to focus on your career versus raising a family or other pursuits, but not necessarily at the high school level and certainly not before then.

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Thinking about this some more last night - especially about how many of the (few) girls in higher level math and science have math/tech/science parents or mom. Do you think part of the boy/girl gap is that in cases like mine, where non-mathy parents have a mathy son, there is a tendency to say "Wow! I see a well-paying career in your future! Let's go go go!" with visions of raising the next Bill Gates or something. Whereas if non-mathy parents have a mathy daughter, there's a tendency to say "Oh, that's nice dear. How nice that you get good grades. Have you ever looked into doing graphic design?"

 

Maybe for some kids. But I am not someone who focused on advanced levels of math who has 2 sons who have pursued STEM fields and a dd who is an equally strong math student who is not interested in a STEM career at all. Her preference has absolutely nothing to do with me or bias in my reaction. She loves languages. She has actively pursued them herself. (I don't know any of the languages, so it is not as if I have bias in that direction. It is simply her personal preference is toward language and literature.

 

Fwiw, I encouraged her to consider a STEM field bc it would be a clearer career path than a language major.

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This. Girls want to please their teachers and subconsciously emulate them. We encountered an elementary teacher while my kids were in ps who did not understand percent.

 

Based on my experiences on this forum, I am not convinced the situation is very different in a homeschool, since I have read many posts by homeschooling mothers who are not confident in math, dislike math, do not find math important,  and those attitudes are picked up by children and emulated especially by girls.

 

I never had any issues with math. I had an extremely capable and enthusiastic male math teacher from 5th grade on. My kids grow up in a home where both parents have an extensive background in higher math.

 

ETA: But the idea of a female-only math competition rubs me the wrong way. because I do not believe that it accomplishes just creating greater confidence - it may well send the message that girls can't play  math in the same league as boys.

 

I agree, Regentrude. I do think that many girls are teacher-pleasers, and want to imitate their teachers. I also agree that many elementary teachers, most of whom were/are women, are not comfortable teaching math, and they allow that bias to seep out in their approach to math in the classroom. You're probably right about many homeschooling moms, too. If I allowed myself to go that way, I would be one of those moms! And I have three very capable daughters, all seemingly strong in math, as young as they are.

 

What I've decided to do is to simply be honest with them -- honest about my perspectives on math, honest about my own limitations with it, honest about how I think I "got there," and honest about how I see things being different for them (as compared to me).

 

I've told them that, after years and years of being able to look back on my own education, I've come to a few conclusions about why I was not considered "strong in math." Here are my results: ;)

 

Selectivity & Class Grouping -- In looking back, I believe that there was no discernible difference in the early grades between my ability and that of my peers. What was different was how specific teachers chose and categorized students -- these are the "mathy" ones, these are the "verbal" ones, these are the "artistic ones," and so on. Personally, I thought I was good at math, good at language, and good at art -- until my teachers informed me otherwise. Elementary teachers (at least in my day) had no qualms in letting students know which niche they ought to fill. So, since the only thing they thought I was "good at" was English, that became my reference point for how I saw myself as a student. Class groups reinforced this idea that some students were brainier in math, while others were not so blessed. Same with art. We all had art class together, but the attention the teachers gave to some students, the praise heaped on one or two select students, while the rest of us did our best, clearly communicated that, "These are the gifted ones." This is something that I think very powerfully shapes many students, perhaps especially girls.

 

I have wondered about this, too, over the years -- on standardized testing, I was usually in the 98th percentile for math, the 99th for verbal. On the Johns Hopkins test in middle school, I was in the highest group for math, though I wasn't in the highest math class. When my results came back for the SAT (11th grade), I remember my math teacher being shocked at the math score! She actually said to me, "You got this score?" So I have wondered over the years if there was something larger going on with putting students into groups, some sort of (conscious or unconscious?) social engineering. Not to go all conspiracy theory on it, but I do wonder. ;)

 

Teacher Ability & Character -- In my opinion, my math teachers were not good teachers. Sure, they perhaps knew math, in the sense that they had taken enough higher-level mathematics courses in college to become middle school and high school math teachers, but how many of those courses were actually relevant to learning how to teach what they were expected to teach? Looking back, I can now see that several of them were really very poor teachers. Certainly, my 7th grade teacher was the absolute worst, 8th grade not so bad, 9th was terrible (young teacher, flirted with and only called on the boys), 10th was abysmal, 11th was ineffective and impatient with students who needed more time to grasp abstract concepts. By the end of high school, I had checked off math as being meaningful in any way. I had checked off any careers that might require "more math." Ugh, perish the thought.

 

Content Mastery & Course Pacing -- Over the years, I've also realized that I can, in fact, grasp math that I thought was beyond me. I tell my girls right up front, some of it is being able to make the conceptual leap ourselves, no one can do this for us. But in school, there was no time to dwell on something until it made sense. So much of our instruction -- what we did get -- was procedural, to a fault. I'm not entirely against procedural, when it can accompany some deeper understanding (or can lead to it), but I was taught math like it was a complicated, memory-based, step-by-step set of never-ending meaningless problems. This is why when people talked about the "beauty of math," I was like :huh: . I've also seen that there was little to no emphasis on mastery of the basics. We just moved along, year after year, whether or not we understood the math essential for later levels. This just set us up for frustration. How can you master algebra, if you haven't mastered fractions? And within each course, there was no variation on pacing. So, if you got it with one explanation, great! If not, too bad for you. I tell my girls that one great advantage they have as DIY homeschoolers is that, if they don't understand something, we can spend time on it. We don't have to "keep up with the class."

 

Lack of Role Models, Motivation & Support -- And finally, in my life there were no role models for women doing math. When I was growing up, I knew one woman who was a statistician. I remember my mother's assessment of statistics -- boring! So there was that. When I was struggling with Geometry in high school, I begged for helped. "Can we get a tutor?" And the response was, "What do you think we are, a bank? Find help at school, that's what the schools are for!" So there was that. I never felt like I had any home support for math. My parents simply said, "We never had that in school, we can't help you there!" And there was the occasional "I don't know why you need Algebra (Geometry, Calculus, Physics), I never had it, and I turned out just fine" comment. Plenty of reasons to just not bother, right? But I also realize that I worked very hard in math, without support, without good teachers, without a motivating reason, really without anything -- and it was extremely frustrating and humiliating.

 

I can't go back and redo my early math education, but I can go forward and try to offer something better to my daughters. For those of us who didn't fall in love with math as students, I think that honestly and openly addressing the challenges we faced in math may help our students better approach that subject. I can see in my own girls that having these conversations has paid off. They approach math as something that will serve them well, if they invest the time to master the basics. They know they are computationally solid, LOL, we just have to find ways to venture into problem-solving that don't lead to weeping and gnashing of teeth. ;)

 

Finally, another part of that conversation has been seeing math as a tool -- that is, you may not love math, but you enjoy science, and you need math for science. So, you work hard at math, in order to be able to do science.

 

And I agree about the girls-only competitions -- girls-only math or girls-only science. From what I understand, this is an American invention? In countries where women participate in STEM fields in higher numbers, the American focus on girls-only STEM is seen as strange. I suppose there are pros and cons to it, though?

 

http://scigirlsconnect.org/

 

http://www.sciowa.org/engage/girls-in-science/

 

http://www.greatscience.com/programs/kid-and-teen-programs/girls-go!-science.aspx

 

http://www.ernweb.com/educational-research-articles/girls-only-math-and-science-classes-boost-performance-but-not-attitudes/

 

Color-coding toys for "boys" and "girls" -- it starts young?

 

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/03/25/the-only-girl-at-her-science-camp/?_r=0

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. Do you think part of the boy/girl gap is that in cases like mine, where non-mathy parents have a mathy son, there is a tendency to say "Wow! I see a well-paying career in your future! Let's go go go!" with visions of raising the next Bill Gates or something. Whereas if non-mathy parents have a mathy daughter, there's a tendency to say "Oh, that's nice dear. How nice that you get good grades. Have you ever looked into doing graphic design?"

I see that happen in my hubby's side of the family. My family is science (engineering) biased on both paternal and maternal side but multilingual. So we could do technical translations for family businesses in house.

 

My in-laws for example has two boys and a girl.

BIL(oldest) was encourage to pursue engineering but didn't make the cutoff so went to computer science (which is predominantly female in my alma mater).

SIL (2nd) was encourage to pursue computer science because lots of girls there and still good career prospects.

My hubby was encourage to pursue engineering and has the grades to get in.

 

I hear the same thing when I met his extended family for a getting to know you after our engagement. They think going to a specialisation in college that is predominantly male is tougher so they persuade the daughters to pick STEM fields that has the most females. Top picks were pharmacist and computer programmers for their daughters. Pharmacist is the more family friendly job compared to computer programmer.

 

I know a girlfriend pick biology in high school because she thinks her math is not good enough for physics. She is happy working in a hospital as a dietitian.

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I found that the stereotypes did not just extend to math, but that the general anti-intellectual sentiment in this country creates a culture of celebrating mediocrity.

My 5th grader had classmates tell her to her face "Dumb down a bit, you make us look stupid".

Thanks - I don't need that kind of environment for my kids.

 

Yes. This is one of the biggest reasons why we homeschool, and why we are no longer with a homeschool group. This board is the only place I have run into homeschoolers that share my educational philosophy.

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There is research (I think I saw it reported on Jo Boaler's site) indicating a strong correlation between math anxiety in a parent and math anxiety in a child--with a stronger correlation if the parent spends time doing math homework etc. with the child. I am sure this is applicable and in fact magnified in a homeschool situation if the primary teacher (usually the mother) has math anxiety. 

 

I did a lot of research on math education for my master's degree, I'd really like to set up workshops for homeschooling parents on math instruction. But I'm afraid that will have to wait for a different season in my life :( I might be able to pull together a presentation for the local homeschool convention though.

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I had some similar experiences at school. I remember an English teacher handing back assignments in order from lowest grade to highest... I was highest. Then in maths, all the boys (I was one of 3 girls in the class) had to see what the girls' test scores were, and felt very emasculated when I beat them. Same year. The English/humanities teachers were all over me trying to mentor me, the maths teacher barely knew my name. No one suggested that I might like to take more stem subjects, or go into a maths related field. I actually think I would have liked accounting and finance but they were soooo not cool.

 

I did have a math mentor in HS, who did her best to make sure I had the ability to do math my senior year of high school after getting a 5 on a Caluculus BC test and running out of classes at the HS (And my parents could not afford for me to DE at Texas A&M).  I did not appreciate what she was doing at the time, just sort of took it for granted.

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Anyone with girls want to chime in on whether they think these same stereotypes persist among homeschooled girls?

 

Yes, this is a big reason I homeschool, because I had heard about elementary school teachers who hated math.  Also my older daughter is olympic level socially sophisticated.  And I don't mean in a good way.  She is acutely aware of where she is supposed to fit in and how she appears and behaves in front of others.  So I essentially tricked her to be good at math, science, computer science before she realized what was going on.  Before she knew it (by middle school) these were her strongest subjects and it was too late for her to do anything about it.  No one was aware she was way beyond what anyone else was learning in their homeschools.  And she began to identify as the "smart one" who was "good at math" and embrace it because she's also ambitious, and could clearly see how it benefitted her.  

 

When I look back to my own upbringing, I was smart but also unattractive and unpopular.  Boys didn't like me, popular girls made fun of me.  I wasn't good at sports.  All I had going for me was academics.  By the time I hit high school when math was really tough (like we were taking practice AHSMEs my freshman year), I still had unshakable confidence in my intellect and I rose to the challenge.  I still managed to eke out As in my high school math classes, and my senior year I was an AIME qualifier.  

 

I guess I should be grateful for not being a cute white kid, because I would have traded popularity and good looks over academic achievement any day!  (Actually I would have preferred all of the above.)

 

ETA:  I still remember after I picked dd up after her very first AMC8, she greeted me with a big smile and said, "I was the only white girl there!"  Atta girl.   

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ETA:  I still remember after I picked dd up after her very first AMC8, she greeted me with a big smile and said, "I was the only white girl there!"  Atta girl.   

 

Good for her!  My dds have had the same experience with their math circle and AMC8.  I think there is one other caucasian girl in their section this year, but that's pretty much it, out of about 50 kids.  And the majority of the kids, in general, are boys.

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Good for her!  My dds have had the same experience with their math circle and AMC8.  I think there is one other caucasian girl in their section this year, but that's pretty much it, out of about 50 kids.  And the majority of the kids, in general, are boys.

 

At this point we just shake our heads and roll our eyes.  Wait, I think there's an emoji for that:   :lol:

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ETA: I still remember after I picked dd up after her very first AMC8, she greeted me with a big smile and said, "I was the only white girl there!" Atta girl.

 

And this is one of the strongest reasons for having all the focus on recruiting girls into stem.

By the time the girls get into middle school and find they are the only ones in their higher level math and science classes, they are very likely to drop out.

 

I attended a women in engineering parent session event today talking about efforts to get girls and retain girls into stem. It is a multifaceted problem but we can't just ignore it or wish it away.

 

My dd is finding less and less girls her age who are interested in math or science. I am doing all I can to keep her encouraged but it is not easy.

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My dd has been participating ina STEAM club for girls and one of the teachers made a comment about boys being better in STEM subjects than girls. Boy, that made my dd mad. I think that's the first time she's ever been exposed to an idea like that. Now, she's determined to be an engineer -- just to prove that teacher wrong, wrong, wrong, lol. It is kind of ironic that the club that was designed to encourage girls in STEM subjects is the first place she's ever been made to feel she's not on equal ground with boys.

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My dd has been participating in a STEAM club for girls and one of the teachers made a comment about boys being better in STEM subjects than girls.

As a female and a former engineer, I do find girls only program in the US weird. I actually find it more insulting and condescending that girls only program exist. Like the girls are not good enough to be in a coed class.

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 Like the girls are not good enough to be in a coed class.

 

Well, not really.  It's more like girls and boys at a younger age are just at a different stage developmentally. Dd can not stand to be around folks who aren't socially sophisticated, that is, who can't refrain from interrupting, bragging, being competitive, etc.  She finds it rude and intolerable.  If she were in a room full of kids like that she'd want nothing to do with it.   (Not that all young boys are like this, but well, they kinda are.)   She wants to be among nice girls who know how to take turns, sit quietly and listen and learn, and are generally polite and supportive.  Boys eventually get it, but I didn't want to wait around for them to catch up.  

 

Homeschooling allowed her to study math, computer science, and science without all those social distractions.  

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Well, not really. It's more like girls and boys at a younger age are just at a different stage developmentally. Dd can not stand to be around folks who aren't socially sophisticated, that is, who can't refrain from interrupting, bragging, being competitive, etc. She finds it rude and intolerable. If she were in a room full of kids like that she'd want nothing to do with it. (Not that all young boys are like this, but well, they kinda are.) She wants to be among nice girls who know how to take turns, sit quietly and listen and learn, and are generally polite and supportive. Boys eventually get it, but I didn't want to wait around for them to catch up.

 

Homeschooling allowed her to study math, computer science, and science without all those social distractions.

See I have a girl who is loud, interrupts, brags, doesn't know how to sit quietly and listen...

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One argument for single-sex classrooms that I do find intriguing is the difference in hearing between boys and girls. The research I have read indicates that girls have better hearing from birth, and are most comfortable when a teacher uses a relatively soft voice--but if the teacher speaks quietly some of the boys may not hear them at all.

 

How accurate that is I don't know, research can be messy and application even messier :)

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See I have a girl who is loud, interrupts, brags, doesn't know how to sit quietly and listen...

 

True, true.  And there are plenty of boys who do sit quietly and listen.  She just doesn't notice them because they are so well behaved.  

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As a female and a former engineer, I do find girls only program in the US weird. I actually find it more insulting and condescending that girls only program exist. Like the girls are not good enough to be in a coed class.

 

 

 

This isn't a US thing. I think the China Girls Math Olympiad was one of the first of these contests... and sure enough the posted articles says:

 

 

 

Smith noticed that, once China started having an annual contest only for girls in 2002, the country began adding girls to its co-ed international team. While he hesitates to say this was the direct cause, he decided it might be a good idea for European girls to have their own Olympiad, too—one whose questions would be just as challenging as those at male-dominated events.

 

So this isn't so much a dumbed down contest so much as a enrichment bridge.

 

 

To me that is a huge difference from some sort of quota system. For instance our local university math program for high schoolers has 20-30% female participation. However in past years when they've had funding to run enrichment camps for 4th-6th graders the female participation rates were 40%. The median grade for calculus was 9th grade and the full 5 year program goes up to analysis/algebra. Girls have the same grades and outcomes in the program. They also modified the small group work so girls were in groups with 30-50% girls which helped with retention. So from my perspective everyone is being taught the same material and graded to the same standard. So what is objectionable about providing programs to allow a more diverse population to succeed in these fields.

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This isn't a US thing. I think the China Girls Math Olympiad was one of the first of these contests... and sure enough the posted articles says.

I was referring to class though. For example there is a robotics class for girls only but boys only have coed class. There are many summer Tech camps (class) where there are classes for girls only too.

 

E.g

http://www.galileo-camps.com/the-tech/schedule

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