I attended a great seminar in July on motor controls attended by 20 men and two women. This 10 to 1 ratio is common in technical professions, such as engineers, industrial technicians, energy auditors, and building operators. These professions suffer from the lack of female perspective, while many women suffer from low pay by avoiding math-and-science careers. How do we create a better male-female balance and prepare our girls for technological careers?
Getting Girls Interested in Math
The first step is to expect more from our girls. Many girls have little interest in math because the adults around them don’t stress math’s importance and don’t engage the girls in quantitative thinking. I’ve seen first-grade girls happily working on multiplication, division, fractions, decimals and other advanced tasks in a Montessori classroom. Some educators deem these tasks too difficult for six year olds. I believe that kids learn math better if they are exposed to the most important and practical math concepts at a much earlier age than is common today. You can teach area, volume, weight, temperature and other physical concepts to six year olds in the context of stimulating measurement exercises and conversations.
Too much math is taught in the abstract. Later students have a difficult time in physics, attaching units of measurement to the numbers, which is necessary to solve physics problems. We should start by counting apples or cookies. Use pennies to represent candy kisses to introduce substitution and exchange of value. Measure people’s weight and temperature. Count the square tiles on a floor to demonstrate surface area.
Looking to the Future
There are hundreds of thousands or millions of jobs here in the USA that employers can’t fill for the lack of applicants educated in math and science. East Asian parents are drilling their girls in math and science. Will immigrants fill these vacant positions? We can’t leave all the teaching and motivating to their teachers if we want women to succeed in technical professions. Talk to the girls you know about the importance of math and science. Perhaps by demonstrating the importance of math and science, we can prepare more girls for technological careers.