Women Mathematicians: Why So Few? Essays

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Women Mathematicians: Why So Few?

The great field of mathematics stretches back in history some 8 millennia to the age of primitive man, who learned to count to ten on his fingers. This led to the development of the decimal scale, the numeric scale of base ten (Hooper 4). Mathematics has grown greatly since those primitive times, in the present day there are literally thousands of laws, theorems, and equations which govern the use of ten simple symbols representing the ten base numbers. The field of mathematics is ever changing, and therefor, there is a great demand for mathematicians to keep improving our skills in utilizing the numeric system. Many great people, both past and present, have made great contributions to the field.
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Therefor, one can conclude that the problem lies in the society of today and the general public’s view of the field. Due to the fact that in most primitive cultures men were superior to women, women were not given the chance to study mathematics (Chipman vii). This is why almost all great classical mathematical thinkers are male. Despite the many advances that women have made in the past years, the general public still views mathematics as a field for men (Perl 1).

In 1971, the Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM) was founded. This was the first noticeable step by women to try to integrate the field of mathematics (Nolan 3). This organization strove to give women mathematicians a voice with which to let the world know that they really existed. The AWM does many studies to try to understand just why

women are not active in mathematics (Nolan 3). IN 1973 Julia Sherman and Elizabeth Fennema, both mathematical educators, studied girls in mathematics courses in both elementary and high school settings. They found that the crucial years of a woman’s mathematical future is in her 3rd or 4th year of high school, when she is often counciled out of mathematics by parents and teachers because they felt that the girl has no future in the field (Nolan 3). These results were supported by the Wise, Steel, and MacDonald analysis which found that "sex differences in average math achievement increased most sharply after the tenth grade, when
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