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Math and Science Myths
"Math class is tough!" Teen Talk Barbie once lamented, playing into unfortunate stereotypes that suggest that girls, math and science just don't mix. Research has shot down many of those myths, but the struggle to get girls into STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields continues. At least Barbie's out of the battle: After her "math is tough" catchphrase enraged parents in 1992, it took mere months for parent company Mattel to pull the talking Barbie from shelves and replace her with a version that kept mum on math.
Myth 1: Girls Aren't InterestedSlide 2 of 13
Myth 1: Girls Aren't Interested
Myth 1: From the time they start school, most girls are less interested in science than boys are.
Reality: In elementary school about as many girls as boys have positive attitudes toward science. A recent study of fourth graders showed that 66 percent of girls and 68 percent of boys reported liking science. But something else starts happening in elementary school. By second grade, when students (both boys and girls) are asked to draw a scientist, most portray a white male in a lab coat. Any woman scientist they draw looks severe and not very happy. The persistence of the stereotypes start to turn girls off, and by eighth grade, boys are twice as interested in STEM careers as girls are. The female attrition continues throughout high school, college and even the workforce. Women with STEM higher education degrees are twice as likely to leave a scientific or engineering job as men with comparable STEM degrees.Slide 3 of 13
Myth 2: Turning Off the BoysSlide 4 of 13
Myth 2: Turning Off the Boys
Myth 2: Classroom interventions that work to increase girls' interest in STEM run the risk of turning off the boys.
Reality: Actually, educators have found that interventions that work to increase girls' interest in STEM also increase such interest among the boys in the classroom. When girls are shown images of women scientists and given a greater sense of possibility about the person they could become, the boys get the message too — "I can do this!"Slide 5 of 13
Myth 3: Bias is OverSlide 6 of 13
Myth 3: Bias is Over
Myth 3: Science and math teachers are no longer biased toward their male students.
Reality: In fact, biases are persistent, and teachers often interact more with boys than with girls in science and math. A teacher will often help a boy do an experiment by explaining how to do it, whereas when a girl asks for assistance the teacher will often simply do the experiment, leaving the girl to watch rather than do.
Research shows that when teachers are deliberate about taking steps to involve the female students, everyone winds up benefiting. This may mean making sure everyone in the class is called on over the course of a particular lesson, or asking a question and waiting 10 seconds before calling on anyone. Good math and science teachers also recognize that when instruction is inquiry-based and hands-on, and students engage in problem-solving as cooperative teams, both boys and girls are motivated to pursue STEM activities, education and careers.Slide 7 of 13
Myth 4: There's Nothing We Can DoSlide 8 of 13