Girls and Science
|The complete report could be dowmloaded at http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/wmpd/|
Adding all the women, one can see that females make up about half of the population in the US. If certain professions do not reflect a composition similar to the general population, this is a sign of a gap. The following figure (although from a different year) dramatically shows a gender gap:
Girls and science: why the gender gap exists and what to do about it":
The US Department of Education has found that girls "who have a strong self-concept regarding their abilities in math or science are more likely to choose and perform well in elective math and science courses and to select math and science-related college majors and careers".
The department emphasizes that: "improving girls' beliefs about their abilities could alter their choices and performance … particularly as they move out of elementary school and into middle and high school."The above traces possible origins of the gender gap to as early as middle school. This is particularly interesting since teachers at this level are mostly female.
- Teachers should explicitly teach students that academic abilities are expandable and improvable in order to enhance girls’ beliefs about their abilities. Students who view their cognitive abilities as fixed from birth or unchangeable are more likely to experience decreased confidence and performance when faced with difficulties or setbacks. Students who are more confident about their abilities in math and science are more likely to choose elective math and science courses in high school and more likely to select math and science-related college majors and careers.
- Teachers should provide students with prescriptive, informational feedback regarding their performance. Prescriptive, informational feedback focuses on strategies, effort, and the process of learning (e.g., identifying gains in children’s use of particular strategies or specific errors in problem solving). Such feedback enhances students’ beliefs about their abilities, typically improves persistence, and improves performance on tasks.
- Teachers should expose girls to female role models who have achieved in math or science in order to promote positive beliefs regarding women’s abilities in math and science. Even in elementary school, girls are aware of the stereotype that men are better in math and science than women are. Exposing girls to female role models (e.g., through biographies, guest speakers, or tutoring by older female students) can invalidate these stereotypes.
- Teachers can foster girls’ long-term interest in math and science by choosing activities connecting math and science activities to careers in ways that do not reinforce existing gender stereotypes and choosing activities that spark initial curiosity about math and science content. Teachers can provide ongoing access to resources for students who continue to express interest in a topic after the class has moved on to other areas.
- Teachers should provide opportunities for students to engage in spatial skills training. Spatial skills training is associated with performance in mathematics and science.
- Emphasize that we live in a scientific world
- Understand that girls generally begin processing information on the language side
- Girls are more responsive to color than boys
- Don't just use color-coding as a math activity either
- Have her read instructions and recipes aloud
- Once she graduates beyond the simple patterning of blocks, buy her kits (like Lego) that involve building according to instructions
- Encourage her to learn things by heart
- Have a younger girl copy a picture from a drawing book or describe something to her that she has to draw
- Keep doing jigsaw puzzles, even when she seems to lose interest
- Never tell her the answer
- Cooking – especially following a recipe – uses both math and science
- Research shows that as girls get older they retain their mathematical and scientific abilities when applied to domestic scenarios
- Never accept language such as "I can't do this" or "I'm bad at math"
- Have the right tools
- More books, less TV
- Present your daughter with positive role models
- Find a female pediatrician
- Don't tell your daughter that you "suck" at math, or anything else along those lines.
To end on a lighter note, here are the two brains: