Girls and Math

With a daughter who is interested in studying engineering in college (she's a high school senior), and seeing the reactions on peoples' faces when Erin tells them that she's leaning towards that field of study, I have to say I'm not surprised to see this piece about teachers' biases about girls' math skills. I'm also afraid that this quote may be more true than not:

“If the math bias against females is present in elementary school, which past research shows it is, and continues through high school and then college, then it’s much less likely that you will find women pursuing math-related high-status occupations in science and technology,” says Riegle-Crumb. “If you perceive the message ‘You’re just not quite as good at math as the boys are’ often enough, you may start to believe it.” 

Erin applied to several schools, including Embry Riddle and NC State, and thankfully she was accepted to both. If you're not familiar with it, Embry Riddle is a school that defines itself as an "Aeronautical University" so it's degree programs are all heavily dedicated to aeronautics (engineering, physics, math, etc.). Not many people are familiar with Embry Riddle so when Erin would explain it to them their looks of surprise were even more pronounced than when she mentioned she had applied to State.

Personally, I think people just assume girls prefer, and are more suited to the humanities, and that engineering and math are boys' playgrounds. Unfortunately if Erin stays on the course she's chosen – and let's remember that there are plenty of kids who change their majors mid-stream – I think she'll be fighting this kind of bias for the rest of her academic and professional careers. It's a shame that might be the case, but you can bet we'll be supporting her the whole way – if people want to assume something based on her gender then that's their problem.

By the way, as parents we're thrilled that Erin opted for State. Not that we don't think she would have done well at Embry Riddle, we just thought that the wider variety of programs at State would allow her the maximum flexibility to explore all fields of study and make whatever choice best suits her. And then there's the not-so-small issue of distance and we LOVE the fact that she'll only be a two hour drive away. Of course if she still wants to go into the field aeronautics she can always go to Embry Riddle for graduate level studies, and I fully expect she'll be able to do anything she sets her mind to, because as most mature men know, women rule. 

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