Tagged: #STEM #MATH #Girls
GIRLS CAN LOVE MATH
Science, Mathematics, Statistics, Commerce, and Technology play a critical role in the development of national economies, in fact, all facets of human life have been permeated by mathematics as a subject either in basic level or in a more advanced level (Alutu & Eraikhuemen, 2004). Consequently, technology cannot exist without science, in other words there can be no modern society without technology, and therefore mathematics is the backbone of national development without which no nation can excel scientifically and technologically. As a result, nations such as Egypt, Germany, Israel, India, that aspire to develop scientifically and technologically give great attention to the teaching of math at the levels of education, providing teaching assistantship to students with interest in math. (Aguele & Agwagah, 2007).
Observably, mathematics is a tool that forms a basis for entry into specialized careers like science, engineering, economics and computing, among others. As a society, we learn about the world and advance our well-being through science and engineering. The United States of America may be known around the world for its higher education, but compared to many other leading and steadily emerging countries, it lacks a strong focus on educating scientists and engineers. One significant reason that the USA have fallen behind is that they do not encourage their female students to pursue career paths in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). This needs to change, as the lack of women in STEM will continue to plague the USA and such other countries until all students, regardless of their sex, have adequate opportunities to explore math and science throughout elementary, middle and high school.
If we want to attract the best and brightest minds into the fields that will move us forward, we must look to all of the population. More girls and women can contribute to the mathematics field, and we can help make that happen (Betz, 1978).
REASONS FOR GIRL CHILD LACK OF INTEREST IN MATHEMATICS
A number of factors have been identified as causes of this gender gap. Gender differences in interests, abilities, and personality characteristics have been implicated as reasons for this disparity.
- Economical factor: Sadly, in Nigeria, one is given the impression at an early age that if you are interested in math, the only occupation available to you is teaching or lecturing, and this is a discipline that about 80% of the female children in Nigeria don’t want to venture into, with little or no idea that math is a foundation for almost all the sciences, technology and commercial disciplines (STEMC) , although, in some cases very few female students use mathematical expressions to learn a definition in either physics, chemistry or biology, despite the conclusions drawn that girls have little or no interest in math.
- Sociocultural forces: False beliefs that boys are born with a greater aptitude for math impact environments such as math classrooms and households that are heavily influenced by beliefs that girls may be disadvantaged genetically when it comes to math ability compared to boys. And such false beliefs can have a very serious negative effect on math interest amongst girls (Dweck, 2007). Parents play an important role in a girl’s view of math and shaping how female students view math ability and related performances.
- Parents’ factor: If parents believe that math ability is a genetic gift and success reflects genetic predisposition, consequently, female students who receive such messages from their parents and eventually encounter difficulty will see those challenges as proof that they lack natural math ability. In turn, this fixed mindset decreases the girl’s interest and confidence in math. At the same time, girls who view math ability as a gift lose interest in math faster than the girls that view math ability as something that can be developed or cultivated through hard work and diligence.
The ways children are socialized contributes to their attitudes towards math; parents encourage boys to be more physically active and to learn how to address their own problems while girls are brought up to be obedient, tender and caring (Marx & Roman, 2002). Although true, but not in all cases, in some cases female children are also encouraged to be active and independent in their problem solving, but they eventually get discouraged in school or classrooms because of the teacher’s approach or the lack of interest among their friends. Even if a child has been encouraged to address their own problems, parents and teachers also need to follow up on each child and be able to tell when a child who was once smart in math begins to depreciate or lose interest.
- Teachers’ factor: (Asimeng-Boahene, 2007) propounds that boys and girls in Africa are brought up differently, as children grow up, boys tend to be self-confident and independent while the girls are seen to be emotional, subservient and affectionate. This kind of grooming makes it easier for boys to adapt to the important learning tools in Science, Technology and Mathematics classrooms which includes problem solving, discussion, and laboratory exercises compared to girls. Female Education in Mathematics and Science in Africa (FEMSA) studied how teachers’ attitudes contribute immensely to the gender gap in mathematics (O’Connor, 2000). It was further revealed that poor expectations for girls’ performance on the part of teachers leads to the kind of science, mathematics and technology classrooms that are unstable and constantly changing, where girls are treated very differently from boys, teachers not purposely do not encourage girls in math lessons, so the girls become actively discouraged. Some teachers direct more challenging and high thinking questions to boys, while only simple questions are directed to the girls who eventually write the same exams with the boys. This reinforces and confirms in the minds of both boys and girls that math is for boys only, so the boys eventually develop and become better in math, while the girls withdraw from any active participation during science and math for the fear of being taunted by male classmates.
Both the sampled female math students and the math teachers acknowledged that several factors account for low participation of females in high school mathematics. The study has revealed that low participation in Advanced level mathematics is due to perceived difficulty of the subject, lack of self-confidence, anxiety, negative teacher attitudes, negative stereotypes about girls’ math abilities, cultural beliefs that mathematics is a male domain and lack of knowledge about mathematics careers. To promote female participation in advanced level mathematics, parents and teachers should (Mandina, Mashingaidze & Mafuta, 2013):
- Engage girls on time, by ensuring that girls grasp the basic/foundation of mathematics at an early age
- Enhance girls’ confidence about their math abilities,
- Create a conducive classroom climate that enhances interest and curiosity in mathematics, through game-based, activity-based, and project-based learning. Mathematics does not have to be a long boring class with little or no activity.
- Expose girls to female role models who have succeeded in mathematics and provide information, advice and guidance on mathematics careers.
It is also recommended that:
- Teachers and parents should de-emphasize gender and cultural biases attached to mathematics.
- The Government should give incentives to girls who study mathematics at higher levels in order to encourage young females to pursue mathematical careers.
- Mathematics teachers can adopt some of the more recent reform-based instructional strategies that actively engage students.
- Agele, L. I.; Agwagah, U. N. A. (2007). Female Participation in Science, Technology and Mathematics (STM) Education in Nigeria and National development. Journal of Social Sciences, 121-126.
- Alutu, A. N. (2004). The Shortfall of Female Mathematics Lecturers in Nigerian Universities: Strategies for Promotion an Retention of Prospective Female Mathematics Lectrers. Journal of International Women’s Studies, 72-84.
- Asimeng-Boahene, L. (2007). Gener Inequity in Science an Mathematics Education in Africa: The Cases, Consequences an Solutions. Journal Eucation, 711-728.
- Betz, N. E. (1978). Prevalence, distribution, and Correlates of Math Anxiety in College Students. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 25(5), 441–448.
- Dweck, C. S. (2007, S. J. Ceci & W.M. Williams (Eds.). Is math a gift? Beliefs that put females at risk. Why aren’t more women in science? Top researchers debate the evidence, pp. 47–56.
- Mandina S., M. S. (2013). Increasing Female Participation in Advanced Level Mathematics: A Perspective from Students and Teachers in Zimbabwe. African Educational Research Journal Vol. 1(3), 183-190.
- Marx, D. M. (2002). Female role models: Protecting women’s math test performance. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28(9), 1183–1193.
- O’Connor, J. P. (2000). Teachers are the problem in SMT, not girls! . Retrieved from CBA Science Series. : http://library.unesco-iicba.org/English/ secondary Science Series.
- Purcell, K. D. (2014). 5 ways girls involved STEM. Retrieved from Edutopia Web Site: https://www.edutopia.org/blog/5-ways-girls-involved-STEM-karen-purcell.
- Tobias, S. (1989). They’re not dumb, they’re different: Stalking the second tier. Tucson, AZ: Research Corporation.
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