Thursday, November 21, 2019
US flag

Girls just as good at math as boys

An article in Science News says “Girls are under-represented at math competitions, generally,” following up on the data point that only 44 percent of the participants at a middle school math competition were girls. “This isn’t an unusual occurrence at the International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO). But it is a problem,” the story concludes.

So first of all, why are fewer than half the participants girls? It’s about 6 percent below the representation of girls in the general middle school population of the US. And second, why is this a problem? And third, what can we or should we do to increase the number of girls at math olympiads to 50 percent, a number that is much closer to their representation in the general population, if we decide that should be a goal?

Every seventh-grade girl I have ever taught had no specific problem with math. When they got to college, though, many of them decided to pursue a different course of study, while a number of them did go into a math or science field.

At the secondary school level, this is a solution in search of a problem. Encouraging girls to pursue studies in math not only puts them into a subservient role to the males in society, mainly by discouraging them from pursuing other interests to follow a course of study they may not wish to pursue, but it also reduces the diversity of participants in other fields that aren’t related to math, some of which are completely dominated by females.

Now, girls who pursue intensive math and science courses in high school also tend to excel in other areas, such as the fine arts, athletics, the social sciences, the humanities, and so on. My advice, to any student who ever asked me, was that if you intend to pursue a career, say, in music, get as much math and science in while you’re still in high school. Once you get to college, math and science fall away so you can spend those eight hours a day in the practice room.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

Recent posts

Girls’ volleyball champs in Illinois

We congratulate the Illinois state champions in girls' volleyball: Newark, St Teresa, Sterling, & Benet Academy.

A weekend of ‘band geeks’ across America

The musical Band Geeks was in performance at a MD high school, just as marching bands from across America named a national champion.

2 dead, 3 wounded in Calif. school shooting

Another school shooting has resulted in the death of 2 California high school students. The suspect shot himself and is in custody.

Mercury makes a transit; next in 2032

A transit of Mercury occurred today and was visible from the US, provided you had sunny skies. It was one of longest possible transits.

On the Naperville BWW racist incident

A racist incident at a Naperville, IL, sports bar indicates that the threads of racism are strong, perhaps as strong as ever.

IL bill could excuse absences to vote

A proposed law in IL could give students up to two hours during the school day so they could vote in the upcoming election.

Loan forgiveness gains some bipartisan support

One Republican from GA, who used to work under Betsy DeVos at the US Education Dept, offers a plan to forgive some student loan debt.

A band teacher is IL Teacher of the Year

IL named a band teacher the 2020 Teacher of the Year on Oct. 19. He individualizes music instruction and shares his work with 1000s.

‘Little Shop of Horrors’ bookends Halloween

Several high schools have decided to add a little spook to their musical stages in this season of Halloween. Music makes it happen.

New IL law ensures inclusion of LGBTQ+

A law will take effect next school year in IL that will require students to study LGBTQ history as part of the social studies curriculum.

MoCo doubles down on summer learning loss

Research is at least equivocal about summer learning loss, but maybe there's something to a new plan in Montgomery County, Md.