STEM and girls: How to create interest in the curriculum
Gender stereotypes may hinder girls from pursuing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) classes as they get older.
Girls score just as high as boys on math and science tests.
2018 saw a 39% increase in female students taking computer science math.
Encourage a growth mindset that says intelligence is not fixed but can improve.
Parents can help by talking to their daughters about prominent female mathematicians and scientists.
Encourage girls to get involved in extracurricular STEM activities.
Show children how STEAM fits into what they already enjoy.
Help girls link STEM and STEAM to “helping professions” -
Would you like to see your child get a job that pays an average of $20,000 a year higher than other jobs? STEM-related careers pay average salaries that are much higher than non-STEM jobs. In general, STEM-related jobs offer more opportunities, better pay, and job security. Not enough female students are pursuing STEM subjects as they get closer to college, though.
Most STEM graduates worldwide are male. More boys take AP STEM-related exams than girls. Most IT jobs are held by males.
There is definitely room for more women to enter STEM fields and it would be helpful for all of us. We will address some of the reasons girls pursue STEM fields at lesser rates than boys, the ways you as a parent can help, and more.
Females are as capable of excelling in STEM as males
The misconception that girls aren’t as talented as boys in STEM is false. Girls score consistently at the same level as boys in math. Middle school girls often outperform boys in algebra. Girls perform at the same level as boys in science. Some take interest in STEM classes as they enter high school. But for many, attention wanes.
STEM is still seen as a predominantly male area
Girls are given subtle and not-so-subtle cues that math and science are for boys. Media shows males dominating in computer science and mathematics. When asked to draw pictures of scientists, most children will draw a male. Even girls are more likely to draw men.
Problems with female elementary school teachers and grading
The majority of elementary school teachers are female. The STEM gender bias has been passed down through generations. Some female elementary teachers get nervous about teaching math. The result? They tend to stick to textbooks. They don't allow room for creativity. They only encourage learning by repetition. The endgame is fewer females become interested in math.
There are also gender biases in grading. An Israeli study showed a startling trend. Researchers were given two sets of math scores from a classroom. One set was graded by in-classroom teachers that knew their students, the other was graded by external teachers that didn’t know if they were grading boys’ or girls’ tests. The in-class teachers graded the boys in their class higher than the girls, but the external teachers did not. The results are clearly troubling.
There are signs of a shifting female mindset
In 2018, the number of girls who applied for AP-level classes skyrocketed by a whopping 39%. Minority numbers rose also. African American student signups for advanced computer science classes jumped by 44%. Rural student enrollment was up as well.
These numbers are encouraging but there is still a lot of work to do. As a parent, there are simple steps that you can take to encourage your daughter to pursue STEM subjects. We list five below.
Solution #1: Encourage a growth mindset
Too often, people get the idea that intelligence is fixed. They believe they are born at a certain level of intelligence and that they are inherently not good at certain things, like science or math. This is a false and dangerous idea.
A growth mindset teaches us that even if we struggle with certain subjects, our abilities aren’t set in stone and that with work, they can improve over time. Encourage your child to keep studying and working on subjects she may struggle with. Intelligence is pliable. Through repetition, study, and work, it can increase.
Solution #2: Talk to your child about prominent female mathematicians and scientists
Children naturally gravitate toward role models. The media encourages this, too. The result? Impressionable youth tend to look up to famous people. Fame alone should not dictate whether someone is a good role model.
Still, since fame is a primary way people of all ages choose their role models, seek out famous female STEM experts. A quick Google search will turn up plenty. You'll find worthwhile and well-known accomplished females in various STEM fields. Here are a few to get you started:
Ada Lovelace – This English mathematician and writer started computer programming centuries before the invention of computers! Ada was born in 1815 and became a gifted mathematician. She is thought to have published the first algorithm carried out by a machine.
Katherine Johnson – NASA hired her to help with their space program. Her calculations of orbital mechanics were critical to the success of the first and subsequent U.S. crewed space flights. Her story was recently featured in the movie Hidden Figures.
Samaira Mehta – Want a modern example? This young lady is currently only 12 years old but has been teaching kids across the United States how to code as the founder and CEO of CoderBunnyz.
Solution #3: Encourage your daughter to take interest in extracurricular STEM activities
There are many STEM-related extracurricular activities sponsored by schools and other organizations. One is put on by the Girl Scouts of the USA. From science fairs to contests, opportunities are out there. Girls can stretch their creative muscles participating in these activities. They will learn that STEM doesn’t have to be isolating, solely independent, or boring. STEM can be collaborative, exciting, and creative.
Solution #4: Show how STEM and STEAM fit into girls’ everyday lives
Show your daughter how STEM fits into her daily life. This is where STEAM can help, too. STEAM adds the Arts to STEM. Girls will discover how science and math can translate to interests they already have. Think video games, apps, and other tech they use every day.
Solution #5: Show girls the link between STEAM and helping professions
According to Christine Cunningham, the founder and director of Engineering is Elementary at the Museum of Science, Boston, girls are naturally drawn to the helping fields. Engineering touches nearly every aspect of our lives and helps us all, which people don’t often realize. Encourage your daughter to see its connection to people, the environment, and animals. Those topics may draw more female interest.
Females, expert research shows, generally gravitate to areas that improve the world. The STEAM field touches upon this even more than STEM.
Lamad Academy will nurture and expand interest in STEM for all students
Don’t listen to the old narrative. Girls can achieve just as highly as boys in math and science. Try these simple solutions to help your daughter discover her potential in STEM and STEM-related careers.
At Lamad Academy, our main focus is on providing cutting-edge, technology-based STEAM education that wasn’t previously available in the communities we serve. Are you seeking an innovative middle school education for your daughter or son? Contact us today to find out more.