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Hearing Highlights Math and Science Education for Girls

Approaches to math and science education were discussed during a March 7 hearing of the House Science Committee. Testimony was provided by a number of public school teachers from across the nation who traveled to Washington to receive awards for their work as math and science instructors.

During the hearing, Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL) highlighted the issue of math and science education for girls. “I am concerned about ensuring that women get involved in science and technology fields,” she said, asking the witnesses: “Do you think that girls are discouraged from taking some of the necessary classes for this?”

Felicity Messner Ross, a junior high school teacher from Maryland, told the committee: “Girls are still discouraged, often by people who are not aware they’re encouraging boys more than girls to excel in math and science.” Ms. Ross described another teacher who videotaped action in a typical classroom and used the tape to instruct other teachers to be more aware of female students. “There needs to be a real look at gender equity,” Ms. Ross said, suggesting more mentorships and partnerships between public schools and successful female role models for girls.

An elementary school teacher from Vermont, Julia Anne Lewis, said, “There are many women teaching science and math, and teachers across the board try to encourage girls, but that is not enough. For one thing, I’m not sure that society helps embrace that.” She said influences “have to come from more than just in the schools,” adding: “Once girls get past eighth grade, their interest and motivation [in math and science] seems to slacken.”

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