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Awesome things from 2015

Early Support from Parents and Teachers Essential for Math Performance in Girls

For the past 50 years, there has been a significant interest in the research community regarding why male students perform better than female students at higher levels of mathematics. When Dr. Gunderson and others were at the University of Chicago, they published a great report on the impact  of parents’ and teachers’ gender related stereotypes on the performance of girls in math. They stated these stereotypes impact girls’ math course selections and pursuit of math related career paths.

This report mainly focuses on parents and teachers and suggests that they have significant impact on children’s academic attitudes and performance.

The report focuses on three main arguments relating to students in America:

1. Adults (parents and teachers) have their own anxiety about math and thinking that math ability is a fixed trait and not a growth trait.
2. Children get influenced as early as preschool. Early negative math attitudes in girls have long lasting impact on girls’ selection of math courses as well as their pursuit of STEM related careers.
3. The impact of parents’ and teachers’ attitude towards math and how it translates to children’s attitude and stereotypes.

Overall this report does a nice job of showing how negative math attitude impacts girls, causing most not to pursue advanced studies in math and math related careers. The report also clearly provides a lot of evidence and examples on how stereotypes and mindsets of parents and teachers damage girls’ math mindsets more than they damage boys’ mindsets.

The Role of Parents and Teachers in the Development of Gender-Related Math Attitudes by Elizabeth A. Gunderson, Gerardo Ramirez, Susan C. Levine, and Sian L. Beilock


Girls Representation at IMO

The International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO) is a very prestigious global mathematics competition for high school students from around the world. It is held annually and the first competition was held in 1959 in Romania. Currently, more than 100 countries participate in this competition.
FiveThirtyEight ( publication recently published some interesting statistics.
-Only 12 countries have won the IMO through 2015 with China, Russia, and Hungary as top 3 countries that have won the most
-The United States team won first place in 2015 after 21 years which is awesome! All six members of the US team were boys.
-Nearly 90% of the US team has been all males since United States started participating in 1974 at the IMO.
-Girls have made some progress in terms of representing their countries.  The average number of girls per team has grown from 0.2 in the 1970s to 0.5 through 2015.
-In the past 23 years, only 5 girls (out of 138) have been part of the United States IMO team.

My First Talk

I got a fantastic opportunity to give my first talk at a GEMS camp offered by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) on June 18th. GEMS stands for Girls Engaged in Math and Science and this summer camp is offered completely free on the campus of UIUC for many years now. The GEMS camp has provided thousands of girls over the past few years opportunities perform science and math projects using computer applications.
My talk started first with an exercise where I asked the girls to draw a picture of a student who is good at math. I then talked about the following:
-The history of math
-What opportunities exist for girls who are good at math?
-What does the latest research reveal about math attitudes?
-Who are some of the great female role models in math?
-What are various ways to become good at math outside school?
-Why should more girls participate in math competitions and what resources exist to help them prepare for that?
-What math courses should you consider when in Middle School and High School?
I also showed them this video from the movie Mean Girls which the girls enjoyed a lot.

Overall, it was a great experience and I got asked a lot of questions.