One of the elementary schools in my district organized a lunchtime group for their Math League. After a few meetings, the adviser for this group received an email from the parent to say that her daughter didn't want to participate anymore. This was the fourth girl to drop out. Yikes! This was a problem and while the teacher didn't want to require students to miss their recess and lunch to attend this voluntary group, she also had a concern that her girls (and only girls) were leaving.
The teacher held a special meeting with the girls that left the group and the girls that remained in the group. She asked them why they thought there were fewer girls than boys in the Math League. This is what she heard:
- Girls might not think they are smart enough or able to do the math work.
- Girls were concerned that the boys would say that they aren't smart enough.
- Girls start to believe it when they constantly hear that they aren't as good as boys in math.
The teacher knew this wasn't true, but she observed that the boys were less concerned about getting the wrong answers. They would try and take risks and the girls weren't (generally) willing to take these risks. The teachers suggested that they create a girls-only lunch group on the day before the Math League meeting. The girls liked this idea and came up with the name G.L.A.M - Girls Love Advanced Mathematics.
After a while, the girls became more and more confident in their math abilities. This led to them taking more chances in the whole group. If one teacher in every elementary school could change the thinking about girls and math with a just a few girls, then we can change this thinking among a whole generation of people. We know that girls begin their lives with the same potential as boys when it comes to learning mathematics (or any subject) and it is only the environment in which they live that seeks to change this potential.
So let's start a G.L.A.M. group in every elementary school. What are we waiting for?