Making Public Schools Great — For Every Girl and Boy

Gender Equity in the Mathematics and Science Classroom: Confronting the Barriers that Remain

About the author
Karen Zittleman (M.A.) is a doctoral candidate in the School of Education at American University, Washington, D.C. Her dissertation investigates what teachers and students know about Title IX and gender issues along with how well schools comply with the law. Numerous publications reflect her commitment to education equity. Her research on curriculum bias in teacher education textbooks has been published in the Journal of Teacher Education and Educational Leadership. Ms. Zittleman has also published a critique of standardized testing in Phi Delta Kappan and of single-sex schooling in The Christian Science Monitor. She has written a Title IX chapter for Gender Complements, a teacher education curriculum funded by the Ford Foundation, and coordinated the development of a website for that project as well. She has served as researcher, editor, and author of special features for the introductory education textbook Teachers, Schools, and Society. Two educational film guides also bear her name: One for A Hero for Daisy about Yale women’s athletics and Title IX, and another for Apple Pie: Raising Champions about celebrating the unique relationship between athletes and their mothers. She has also taught several Title IX online courses through the Women’s Educational Equity Act. Ms. Zittleman is also project manager for Myra Sadker Advocates.

For more information contact:
Andrea I. Prejean, Ed.D. Senior Professional Associate for Mathematics/Science Student Achievement National Education Association 1201 16th Street, NW Washington DC 20036 V 202-822-7891 F 202-822-7482


Part 1: Exploring the Issue
With its landmark Title IX legislation in 1972, Congress promised the nation that the talents of all students — women and men, girls and boys — would no longer be fettered by gender discrimination. Formally known as Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the law requires institutions that receive federal funds to maintain policies, practices, and programs that do not discriminate on the basis of sex. Its sponsors wrote the law broadly to ensure equal opportunity for women and girls in all aspects of learning — from access to higher education to fair treatment in elementary and secondary classrooms to equal opportunity in athletics.

Teachers and students continue to confront gender bias in classroom interactions, harassment in hallways, stereotypes in the curriculum, and a host of other educational challenges. Yet many teachers have received little preparation for dealing with these subtle and not so subtle kinds of discrimination. Teacher education programs often devote little time to gender bias, and texts on methods give minimal coverage to gender equitable instruction.2

It is no wonder, then, that many educators express confusion about gender equity — what it means, why it is important, and how to achieve it in their classrooms. This is particularly true in subject areas traditionally Today, Title IX provides legal protection dominated by boys and men, such as science against sex discrimination for approximately and math. This paper examines these ques70 million students and employees in feder- tions and provides teachers with tools they ally funded elementary and secondary can use to evaluate and refine their own schools, colleges and universities, vocational classroom practices. training centers, public libraries, and museums.1 Millions of young women have equal access to institutions, programs, and career networks that once restricted their participation or barred them entirely. Despite these gains, one can fairly question whether America’s classrooms have fully caught up with the spirit, as well as the letter, of the law.


Gender Bias: An Equal Opportunity Issue
Gender equity in schools and classrooms generally is assumed to mean creating and sustaining environments in which both females and males have: • an equal chance of learning in all subjects, • equally high learning and academic expectations communicated to them, and • equal opportunities and encouragement to participate and achieve in courses that prepare them for further education and a wide range of career choices. In recent decades, attempts to eliminate bias against women and girls have received significant attention. Women and girls have historically faced more and greater restrictions and barriers than have men and boys, and, as a result, they have experienced more negative consequences of gender discrimination. As Representative Patsy Mink, an early advocate of gender equity in education, noted in 1972: Discrimination against women in education is one of the most damaging forms of prejudice in our Nation for it deprives a high proportion of our people of the opportunity for equal employment and equal participation in national leadership.3 In fact, however, bias and stereotypes affect both genders, although in different ways. Both girls and boys experience unique challenges that must be addressed so that they can reach their full potential.

Girls often encounter problems in certain subjects, such as math, science, and tech nology. Further, they receive less attention in the classroom and have fewer opportunities on the athletic field. Many of these problems are masked by strong report card grades that suggest girls are doing just fine. As they progress through high school and college, however, women find themselves channeled into lower-paying careers and occupations. At first glance, boys may appear to be the more favored gender — recipients of the lion's share of time and attention from teachers, and rich in role models both in textbooks and in everyday life. With higher standardized test scores, they win the majority of scholarship dollars and are expected to prepare for successful careers with high salaries. Although boys still dominate the top ranks of the class, they also are more likely to stagnate at the bottom. Labeled “problems,” in need of special control or assistance, boys are more likely to fail a course, miss promotion, or drop out of school. Even when a boy’s behavior, or misbehavior, is similar to a girl’s, he is disciplined more harshly and more publicly. Boys mature more slowly, their reading and writing skills lag behind those of girls, and they are more likely to drop out of school — particularly if they are boys of color. Although it is true that more women than men now enroll in college, the missing males are not white but African American, Hispanic, and Native American.4 Clearly sexism is not a “girls only” issue.

Discrimination against women in education is one of the most damaging forms of prejudice in our nation for it deprives a high proportion of our people of the opportunity for equal employment and equal participation in national leadership.



Gender (In)Equities in Math and Science: Problems To Solve
Is sex discrimination still a problem in our nation’s schools? Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Research confirms that traditional gender-based stereotypes and inequities continue to prevail, limiting the academic and social development of both females and males. For girls, this bias remains especially prevalent in math and science subjects, which historically have been dominated by their male classmates. On the surface, however, even here one could easily get the impression that things are moving in the right direction. For example, it is true that female enrollment in science and mathematics courses has increased dramatically in recent years. However, whereas girls are more likely to take biology, chemistry, trigonometry, and algebra II, boys still dominate physics, calculus, and more advanced courses. Boys also are more likely to take all three core science courses — biology, chemistry, and physics.5 Similarly, females now take more advanced placement tests than do boys, except in math, science, and computer science. However, females lag behind males in America’s “high stakes” tests — across all races and ethnicities. This limits women’s access to educational institutions, financial aid, and careers. Females score lower on both the verbal and mathematics sections of the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT); the math, science, and computer science advancedplacement (AP) exams; and the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) for masters and doctoral programs.5 Perhaps as a result — even though jobs requiring math and science skills will increase by 5.6 million in 2008, — girls are five times less likely than boys to consider technology-related careers. Girls from all ethnic groups rate themselves considerably lower than do boys on technological ability.8

Despite the positive influences of Title IX, this disparity is still fostered, wittingly and unwittingly, by attitudes and practices within the school system, as well as within society at large. As early as nursery school, and continuing through college, boys and girls sit in the same classroom, listen to the same teachers, and use the same textbooks — but, when it comes to mathematics and science, they experience substantially different educations.

Consider: • By the third grade, 51 percent of boys have used a microscope in class, in contrast to just 37 percent of girls.9 Girls are more likely to be found in word-processing and clerical-support programs. Girls also are less likely to use computers outside of school, and girls from all ethnic groups rate themselves considerably lower than do boys on technological ability. Current software products are more likely to reinforce these gender stereotypes and biases rather than reduce them.10 Children’s science programs feature three times as many male as female characters and twice as many adult male scientists as female scientists. Of the female characters, most are portrayed in secondary roles such as lab assistants or students.11 Boys receive more math- and science-related toys than do girls.12 In sixth and seventh grades, girls rate popularity as more important than academic competence or independence.13 A recent study found that 71 percent of male teachers are more likely to attribute boys’ success in technology to talent, while dismissing girls’ success as due solely to luck or diligence.14 Vocational training programs channel girls and women into low-wage jobs. Students in cosmetology, child care, and health care programs are more than 85 percent female, whereas more than 90 percent of males are clustered in traditionally male — and higher paying — courses in technology and industrial trades, such as carpentry and plumbing.15



Given the climate of lower expectations and more limited opportunities, girls grow increasingly alienated in these classrooms. In elementary school, both males and females report that they like math and

science, and their test scores are comparable. Yet, by the 12th grade, females report less positive attitudes and consider math and science harder subjects than do boys.16

Special Alert! How Classroom Behaviors Feed the Gender Gap
Teachers and administrators sincerely appear to be committed to carrying out the mandates of Title IX. Yet gender bias continues to permeate attitudes and practices both in the classroom and in the district. Many forms of subtle discrimination seem to be embedded in the system itself, the result of centuries of accumulated assumptions. Here are some common examples of ways in which gender bias still influences teaching and learning today. • Classroom interactions: Who’s talking? Many teachers still inadvertently favor boys in their classroom interactions. Research reveals that teachers call on boys more often than girls, wait longer for boys’ answers, and engage boys when they call out. The quality of feedback males and females receive from teachers also often differs. Girls receive comments for neatness, whereas boys are more likely to receive praise and criticism for the intellectual quality of their efforts. The good news: Research also shows that when teachers are aware of their biased classroom behaviors and practice equitable instruction, the gender gaps in interaction diminish.17

Attributions: Boys are smart, girls are lucky. Boys typically attribute their achievements to intelligence and their failures to luck or insufficient effort. In contrast, many girls believe their successes are due to luck and their failures to inability.18 Girls’ negative attributions can become harmful selffulfilling prophecies: Trying harder or risking a new approach will not make much difference if you believe you simply are not smart enough. Even gifted and talented girls report less confidence in their academic skills, especially in math and science. The Illinois Valedictorian Project followed the progress of nearly 100 young men and women who graduated at the top of their classes. After four years of college, students of both sexes had continued their high academic performance. Yet when asked to describe their level of intelligence, 25 percent of the men perceived themselves as “far above average,” whereas not a single woman did, despite earning higher grades.19 Even our most talented girls and women are too often discouraged from reaching their full potential.


Act like a girl. Social pressures to act in stereotyped gender roles increase as students enter adolescence, a time when peer acceptance often takes priority over academic success. Many girls believe they will be unpopular if they are perceived as intelligent or good at math and science. As a result, they submit to pressure to be “feminine” — not too smart or too good at “boy stuff.” In math and science classrooms, boys more frequently use scientific instruments and computers than do girls, even when girls express interest in participating. In one study, boys carried out 79 percent of student-led science demonstrations, whereas girls were 300 percent more likely to be the group note takers.20 Teachers also encourage boys to persist and solve problems, but they unintentionally finish tasks for girls who hit a roadblock. Consequently, girls learn that they are less capable of finding solutions on their own.

Testing and assessment: What’s the right answer? Gender differences in achievement may be the result of bias in the testing process. Girls are less likely to take the risk and guess at multiplechoice questions than are boys, and they do less well in competitive timed test situations. Research also shows that tests tend to reflect male interests, refer less to women, or present women in stereotypical roles. Girls tend to have more success with real-life application problems and with process skill questions.23 When test content does not reflect girls’ knowledge and learning styles, their scores are artificially low. In contrast, authentic measurements, such as performance assessments and portfolios, assess what students know in real-life contexts, encourage both girls and boys to reflect on their work, and are integrated into the whole learning process. Authentic assessment captures diverse learning styles and works well for both girls and boys.

• • Expecting less than the best. Many teachers, counselors, and parents still unwittingly buy into stereotypes of girls as less capable than boys in math and science. These assumptions are not new: In 1873, Harvard scholar Edward Clarke described how females would exhaust their reproductive energies trying to keep up with their male classmates, damaging their brains and becoming candidates for mental problems. Women were presented with a choice: algebra or ovaries.21 At the dawn of the twenty-first century, Teen Talk Barbie perpetuated the myth when she proclaimed, “math is hard.” Even when girls today take math and science courses and do well in them, they do not receive the encouragement they need to pursue scientific careers.22 When girls are not exposed to books, toys, and computer software that stimulate scientific and mathematical thinking; when they are not encouraged to voice their ideas and questions; and when they are not shown the importance of these subjects, they are likely to lose interest — if they ever become curious at all.

Textbook bias. Curriculum materials that still use male-biased language, content, and illustrations reinforce mathematics and science as male domains. Older texts, such as Mary Budd Rowe's Teaching Science as Continuous Inquiry (1978), asserted that just being female was “a special handicap” in science. The text informed readers that girls “know less, do less, explore less, and are prone to be more superstitious than boys.” Today’s science and math methods texts avoid such overt and harmful stereotypes, but they are far from bias-free.24 Biased and stereotyped messages are embedded in books — in textual presentation, misrepresentation, or simply lack of presentation — at all levels, from picture books to professional studies, and not only about genders but also about numerous other groups.25 (See Toolbox: Are Your Curriculum Materials Bias Free?)



Classroom Strategies for Gender Equity Success
When teachers recognize these instances of unconscious bias in their own practices, they are willing and eager to address them. Here are nine areas you may wish to examine, along with some ideas for making each area more equitable for both girls and boys. • Call on different students. Many teachers are so focused on getting an answer, and getting it quickly, that they call on the “quickest hand,” which is usually attached to a male. This typically keeps the same students involved and slower hand raisers and thoughtful thinkers remain outside the conversation. Instead of calling on the first hand in the air, choose instead to pick the third or fifth or seventh hand raised. Teachers may also ask students to choose among their peers to answer questions so that one student calls on another. Whatever strategies are used, the key is to keep all students actively involved. • Use wait time deliberately. Many teachers are familiar with wait times 1 and 2, but may not be aware of just how the concepts can help teach girls and boys more equitably. Wait time 1 is the silence between a teacher’s question and a student’s response — typically, less than a second. Research suggests that when teachers pose a higher order question, they should increase wait time to three, four, or even five seconds. These longer wait times lead to more careful thinking and more accurate answers. A longer wait time also gives the teacher more time to consider who to call on, to think about which students have not spoken, and to avoid the tendency to call on the first hand raised. Wait time 2 is the period after the student’s answer and before a teacher reacts to that answer. Research shows that boys typically get more precise and thoughtful teacher reactions. Extending wait time 2 to three, four, or five seconds gives teachers the opportunity to reflect more thoughtfully on all students’ answers and to provide girls with the same specific, helpful feedback that they give to boys. • Balance your curriculum. Use books and stories that show girls and women in strong, nonstereotyped roles, from doctors to computer programmers to engineers. If you are teaching a unit or using a text that lacks female representation, ask students to fill in the missing pages and research the role women play or played in that area. The Internet is a rich source of women’s biographies, and 4000 Years of Women in Science ( is a terrific place to begin filling in the gap. Raise student awareness of the bias. Challenge students to create ways to remove the bias and to create more equitable textbooks. Extend this activity by asking students to identify bias in magazines, television programming, and on the Internet.



Put walls to work. Classroom displays communicate daily messages about what is valued. Walls decorated mostly with pictures of caucasian men in math, science, and technology (or in history, literature, and athletics) send one message; displays that include females and males from diverse racial and ethnic groups engaging in a variety of activities send quite another. What messages are your classroom walls sending? Survey the school displays for equal representa- • tion of all groups. Ask your students to work with you — let them know that you make gender equity a priority. Promote collaboration. Working in groups of two to five can provide a comfortable environment for shy girls and boys who may be intimidated by speaking in front of the entire class. But a small group is no guarantee of equity. Research describes how in cooperative learning groups girls tend to assist both other girls and boys, whereas boys are more likely to help only other boys. In addition, some students (usually boys) may dominate the group, while others (usually girls) are quiet. Some boys need to learn how to ask questions — especially unsuccessful boys who prefer to “tough it out” rather than admit that there is something they do not know. It is important for teachers to monitor groups and intervene if these inequitable patterns emerge. • Ensure equal access to hands-on learning. Do both boys and girls in your classroom have an equal opportunity and receive equal support when using manipulatives, calculators, or computers? Handson activities with open-ended learning opportunities encourage interest and understanding, and make your classroom a fun place to learn. But take care during these authentic learning activities: Teachers can be too helpful, especially with girls.

Beware the self-fulfilling prophecy. In Principles and Standards for School Mathematics, the National Council for Teachers of Mathematics declares, “Excellence in mathematics education requires equity — high expectations and strong support for all students.”26 Yet thoughtless behavior and comments can unintentionally create two very different classroom realities, one for girls and another for boys. If a teacher expects boys to succeed and girls to struggle in science, technology, or math, the students will quickly pick up on these expectations. Of course, self-fulfilling prophecies can be positive as well. A teacher who praises a student’s special talent or skill creates memories that can last a lifetime. When you “catch” a girl doing well on a science or math project, offer a supportive comment and put that self-fulfilling prophecy to work in a constructive way. Give girls a helping hand. A female positive role model is often cited as the most important factor for cultivating and sustaining girls’ interests in math and science. Through other women of achievement, girls can see themselves as capable mathematicians and scientists, challenging the stereotype of a scientist as a caucasian male in a lab coat. Mentors also can help girls with scientific and mathematical concepts, open their eyes to an array of scientific fields, give them a realistic sense of the vast challenges and reward of various occupations, and map educational paths to math and science careers.



Gender Bias: An Equal Opportunity Issue
Invite women working as scientists, engineers, mathematicians, or computer scientists to speak with your class. Ask the women to talk about their careers, describe the nature of their work, discuss the rewards and challenges, and share what it is like to be a woman in this field. Learning about women’s experiences offers a more complete understanding of women’s contributions — beneficial lessons for girls and boys. Role models can also be found in curricular resources that share the stories and contributions of women in math and science. Create with your students a prominent bulletin board or monthly display that showcases the contributions women have made to mathematics, science, and technology. (See Toolbox: Finding Role Models)

Consider the following scenario: Ariel is struggling with programing her graphing calculator. She is a terrific student but anxious to use her calculator. The teacher, thrilled with Ariel’s motivation, walks over and enters the correct settings, remarking, “Now you can do it!” At first glance, it may seem that the teacher is facilitating learning. However, by programming the calculator for Ariel rather than showing Ariel how to do it for herself, the teacher is actually encouraging learned helplessness. A better approach would be for the teacher to guide and encourage Ariel to use the graphing calculator herself, offering suggestion when appropriate.



Here are a selection of ideas, self-assessments, and other materials that you can use to help eliminate gender bias from your school and classroom.

Item 1. Are Your Curriculum Materials Bias Free? Here are some ways that gender bias infiltrates today’s textbooks and other materials. How many of these appear in the ones you use? • Stereotyping. Stereotypes cast males as active, assertive, and curious, while portraying females as dependable, conforming, and obedient. Be alert to these in all classroom materials. Invisibility. Textbooks published prior to the 1960s largely omit African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, and other groups. Many of today’s textbooks continue to give minimal treatment to women and other groups. Imbalance and selectivity. Sometimes a curriculum presents only one interpretation of an issue, situation, or group of people, simplifying and distorting complex issues by omitting different perspectives. When math and science texts refer only to discoveries and formulas by men, they present incomplete pictures of scientific inquiry. For example, one of the co-inventors of the historic cotton gin was a woman, Katherine Littlefield Greene. But because women were not allowed to register patents, Eli Whitney received the patent — and the sole credit in history texts ever after. Unreality. Textbooks have gained a sort of notoriety for glossing over unpleasant facts and controversial events. When discussions of sexual or racial discrimination are dismissed in texts as remnants of a bygone day, students receive a distorted version of the facts. Fragmentation and isolation. Some of today’s texts relegate discussion of contributions by women or minorities to special inserts or even chapters, for example, “Ten Women Achievers in Science.” Instead of highlighting their work, this fragmentation presents these groups and topics as peripheral — less important than the main narrative. Try to work such discussion into routine instruction. Cosmetic bias. Some textbooks prominently display images of women and other groups, while virtually ignoring them in the text. This cosmetic bias offers an “illusion of equity” to teachers and students who may casually flip throught the pages of a textbook without noticing that the bias persists in the content.



Item 2. Finding Role Models These Web sites offer a wealth of biographies and will open doors to the world of women in math and science: • The National Women’s History Project: Math and Science ( • Archives of Women in Science and Technology ( • The Role Model Project for Girls ( • 4000 Years of Women in Science ( • Women of NASA (

Item 3. Grade Your School Gender bias has been described as “a syntax of sexism so elusive that most teachers and students were completely unaware of its influence.”27 This quick list will help educators and administrators identify barriers to equity in math and science in their schools, as well as help them take steps to create gender-fair education.

In your classroom, do you …
1. use language that is inclusive of all kinds of students? For example, do you say “firefighter,” not “fireman,” or “server,” instead of “waiter” or “waitress”? Do you use both male and female pronouns instead of the generic “he” or “him”? allow adequate wait time (3–5 seconds) for students to answer a question? hold high expectations for, and communicate those expectations to, all students? find ways to engage all students in class discussions and hands-on activities, even those who are more quiet or passive? analyze your interactions with students to check for biased language and stereotyping? For example, do you automatically assume all boys will be rowdy or boisterous and try to control such situations before they start? Or, when a girl stands up for herself or is competitive, would you characterize her behavior as aggressive or abrasive? use software that is free of harmful gender or other stereotypes in language or characterization? structure and monitor problem-solving activities so that they are cooperative-collaborative rather than competitive? challenge all students with higher order questions? encourage girls to be confident in their abilities as mathematicians and scientists?

2. 3. 4.




8. 9.

10. encourage girls to pursue math and science in high school, college, and beyond?



Does your school …
1. monitor enrollment in science and math classes by gender? What patterns emerge? Is there equity in some subject areas? Where does progress still need to be made?

Tip: Brainstorm strategies with colleagues to ensure that all students are encouraged to pursue science and math courses.


collect data on standardized test scores by gender? What patterns emerge? Is there equity in some subject areas? Where does progress still need to be made?


have programs that encourage girls and other under-represented groups to participate in upper-level math and science courses? What is effective about these initiatives, and what can be improved?


give all students the same information about scholarships, special programs, and college requirements for science, math, and technology majors? How are students made aware of these resources? What steps are taken to alert females and males?


have classrooms and a school library that include ample books and media about the contributions of both men and women of various ethnic or demographic groups in science, mathematics, and technology? How are faculty and students made aware of these resources? What support does the school librarian need to include such materials?



Item 4. Now It’s Your Turn! Consider the strategies for equity success discussed in this paper. • How will you use these in your classroom? • What efforts can you add to the list? • What steps will you take to strengthen gender equity in your classroom and school and to further your understanding of equity in math and science education? Create pledge cards, contracts, or action plans that encourage equitable instruction and opportunities. Answer the following questions to help make your action plan work: • What is my goal? • What are barriers to reaching this goal? • What support and resources will help me keep these commitments? • How will I assess that I have reached my goal?

Item 5. Putting Knowledge into Action: How Will You Break These Gender Barriers? The following vignettes describe actual events confronted by math and science teachers. Consider how you would respond to each. 1. Zoe is one of your best middle school math students, and you encouraged her to sign up for advanced mathematics next year. Today Zoe stays after class to discuss her decision with you. “I’ve talked with my friends about taking advanced math next year. They all say advanced is tough, that boys tease you if you don’t know an answer, and that only dorky girls take it. My stomach gets butterflies just thinking about being in advanced math. I don’t think I can do it. Plus, my parents think math is not for young ladies and worry I will not like it or be accepted.” As Zoe’s teacher, how do you respond? Maura is eager to begin your introductory physics course, and already envisions constructing a hologram or a wheel chair lift for disabled students as her final project. She even has her brother’s graphing calculator to help with the difficult mathematical equations she will encounter. Yet as Maura flips through the pages of her textbook, her enthusiasm quickly wanes. There are neither pictures of women nor any mention of the contributions of female physicists. She asks you, “Do I really belong in a physics class?” How do you answer? Why? Harold is struggling in math, but he continues to make real efforts. He has been working on a fractions division problem for some time. He finally comes to you for help. What do you do? Why? Would you do anything differently if this student were female? Why or why not? Your class is dissecting fetal pigs, but Angela and Katrina don’t want to because it is “gross.” How do you respond? Why?







Rebecca’s friends nicknamed her “computer whiz” after she installed memory chips and a CD burner into her family’s computer. Her high school offers a career education track, and Rebecca decided to explore her options as a computer technician at Career Day. At the event, though, she was disappointed when speakers and materials promote nursing and child care as good careers for females and computer repair and electrical engineering as male endeavors. She now wonders if her goal is unrealistic and grabs material on cosmetology. How do you respond? Why?

Item 6. On the Web: Effective Programs for Teachers and Students

Advocates for Women in Science, Engineering and Mathematics
( AWSEM is an after-school project designed to link middle school girls with role models. Girls meet for hands-on science activities, presentations, and field trips.

Association for Women in Mathematics (
AWM is a nonprofit organization dedicated to encouraging women and girls in the mathematical sciences. Resources for teachers and students include biographies, awards, scholarships, and other resources.

Association for Women in Science (
AWIS is dedicated to achieving equity and full participation for women in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology. Check the site for information on the scientist of the month, mentoring, scholarships, book reviews, and discussion forum.

Color Math Pink ( The Color Math Pink site is designed to help middle school girls excel at math. It connects girls with peer tutors to assist with homework and with mentors to explore career options. Teachers also will find a wealth of lesson plans and instructional ideas to engage girls in math. Cyber Sisters ( An educational tele-mentoring program in science, math, and technology for middle school girls. Design Your Future ( This site is designed to encourage girls to explore careers related to science, math, and technology. It contains e-mentoring, information about working women, and more. EQUALS (
EQUALS programs work to increase access and equity in mathematics for all students, particularly girls and under-represented groups. With attention to gender and race, class, and culture, EQUALS presents ways of learning and thinking about mathematics that help build access and success for all students.



Engaging Middle School Girls in Math and Science ( This eight-week online course for teachers focuses on building classroom environments that support girls’ achievement in math and science. It explores ways to increase girls’ interest in math and science and examines factors that affect their achievement levels. Topics include gender in math and science classrooms, equitable expectations and interactions, equitable teaching strategies, and equity in assessment. Girls Start (
Girls Start provides a supportive and empowering atmosphere in which girls perform handson activities with robots, microscopes, environmental science, math, engineering, and technology. Girls learn science, math, engineering, and technology concepts in a fun and energetic environment. The Girls Start Web site features activities for girls, as well as resources for teachers and parents.

Operation SMART (
Created by Girls Inc., Operation SMART builds girls’ skills and interest in science, math, and technology. Hands-on activities give girls the opportunity to explore, ask questions, and solve problems.

Sally Ride Science Club (
Sally Ride created this organization for girls who like science, math, and technology. It is open to upper elementary and middle school girls across the country. The club enables girls to consult with experts and role models, exchange ideas, collaborate with peers, and embark a vast array of online and off-line activities. Books: Jo Sanders. 1994. Lifting the Barriers, 600 Strategies That Really Work to Increase Girls’ Participation in Science, Mathematics and Computers. Seattle: Jo Sanders Press. Available at

Before You Go …
The attitudes that keep females from pursuing careers in mathematics and science are the same attitudes that for generations kept women from voting, flying airplanes, playing professional sports, and holding political offices. Like countless other activities, women have shown that they are not only capable of pursuing these endeavors, but of excelling at them. Expecting the best from every student in math and science includes recognizing the diverse intellectual energy each girl and each boy bring to the world. The questions they ask along the way may open the doors to discoveries that will change all of our lives. By nourishing in these children a sense of competence, ownership, and excitement about these subjects, we give them the greatest gift we can — not only the possibility of becoming mathematicians and scientists but of becoming fully human.



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