Hermione Needs Math and Science Education

Feb 05, 2009

Posted by Doris

I recently wrote a review of an educational book about boys in our classroom. Another book I’d like to suggest to all teachers and parents is Failing at Fairness, How our School Cheat Girls. This book looks at the cultural phenomenon that leaves girls feeling left behind in both science and math.

I think back to the first Harry Potter book and realize that our wizarding classrooms don’t seem to have this problem, but one shortfall in many classrooms today is the trend to focus science and math curriculum towards boys. This leavs girls feeling like these subjects just are not for them.

Hermione Potions

No longer is it acceptable for Barbie to say, “Math class is hard, let’s go shopping!” Even Mattel realized their insensitivity and stereotyping with their Teen Talk Barbie. Now it’s time for educators to reach out to girls who’ve lived with that stereotype and make sure that those girls are offered the same opportunities given to their male schoolmates.

According to this article from LiveScience.com, the top five myths about girls in math and science are …

  • From the time they start school, most girls are less interested in science than boys are.
  • Classroom interventions that work to increase girls’ interest in STEM run the risk of turning off the boys.
  • Science and math teachers are no longer biased toward their male students.
  • When girls just aren’t interested in science, parents can’t do much to motivate them.
  • At the college level, changing the STEM curriculum runs the risk of watering down important “sink or swim” coursework.

I challenge everyone to encourage girls to discover the exciting world of math and science. Can we imagine what would have happened to the trio if Hermione, the brightest witch of her age, had never found a love of potions? If, instead of mastering the difficult task of polyjuice potion making, she’d have decided “Math is too hard, let’s go shopping.”

For educators or parents, the book How to Encourage Girls in Science and Math is a great resource to help encourage girls to discover the world of math and science.

(You can read the full article on Mattel’s Barbie Teen Talk here on the NY Times.)

26 Responses to Hermione Needs Math and Science Education

Avatar ImageSilverMoose says: True Hermione would do well to get a bit of Maths down here but I think see needs a little Art in my opinion lolAvatar ImageDorisTLC says: Thanks SilverMoose. I don't think anyone would say that all kids don't need art, but most girls are not getting an equal education in maths and science as their male counterparts. We need to make sure the classroom is there for all students.Avatar Imagemhaeyemhaeye says: I am not all for Math (I hate this subject :D), but I think everyone needs a fair share of education, so I agree so much with this.Avatar ImageLillylove says: Excellent food for thought as always, Doris. It is shameful that in 2009 those gender stereotypes still haunt our schools. I was certainly a victim of "Math isn't for girls." Because of my experience, I was determined to flip that coin for my daughter. We did a great deal of home support of her interest in Math & Science (as well as the Arts, Silvermoose!). I'm proud she has become a true Hermione - she is graduating this spring from college in the top 5% with a science major. Avatar ImageZivlok says: Very true. And I for one am in full support of getting more girls into the maths and sciences, if not for equality, than at least so we can increase the population of female nerds! ;)Avatar ImageDorisTLC says: Lillylove, the one place that gender stereotypes should never exist is school. It's our job as teachers to help all children reach their full potential. Dawlish and the Archies, LOL! Avatar ImageRavenclawMom says: As a 40-something female engineer, I heartily agree. I have one child of each gender, both considering (or studying) engineering. To the girl people say, "That's so hard!", and to my boy they say "Good for you!" Luckily, my daughter had Mom there to say "You can do it!" She's now a successful student at a top-notch engineering school. Go, girl!!!!Avatar Imagehalcyon says: When I was young and naive I wanted to go into a science field, but realized how much math was involved and quailed. I never noticed if there was a gender-bias as far as math and science, I just know it was hard for me and hard to find help for it. Though I have to give my chemistry teacher his due, as he stayed after school almost everyday to help those who just weren't getting it. That helped a bit.Avatar ImageGinevra86 says: This reminds me of the gender-biased remarks that the President of Yale (was it?) that said that girls just aren't as good as boys in math and science. It's a downward spiral for us girls to compete in these subjects and you shed some light on the subject. Girls are equally capable of suceeding in these fields... it is society that gives them the disadvantage from the start. Avatar ImageFwanninator says: I really appreciate you writing this article. I'm a female high school senior and I LOVE math and science! Yes, I also love shoe-shopping, but it IS possible to love shopping and physics =]Avatar ImageNia_Black says: I agree wholeheartily with this article. Fortunately (or unfortunately for some things) I go to an all-girls' school. We have no gender bias here, however, the main physics teacher is male. He's awesome though but I would like to see more female teachers in physics. Admitedly we only have two male teachers (that physics teacher and an art teacher). The rest of the science teachers are female. I actually hope to one day achieve a Phd in Physics. My thing is though that I get along better with guys than I do with girls. Maybe it's because of the science and graphic novel thing? It seems that more boys share my interests as if there are more geeky boys than geeky girls. Ok... not sure if that made sense to anyone but me. Great article in any case! =DAvatar Imagejalawood says: Well, Dawlish and the Archies, I'm not sure if you said that becuase you are on the lookout for female nerds or for some other reason, but I happen to agree with you. I, being a female nerd, happen to desire female friends to hang out with, but there are no other female nerds at my school! And since none of the guy nerds want to hang out with a girl, I'm sort of stuck. Thankfully, I'm working on my friends and slowly converting them to nerd-hood. :) I love math and science is my favorite subject! I actually plan on becoming an astronomer one day. At any rate, I loved this article. Go Ravenclaw, Go nerds of all genders, and DFTBA!Avatar Imagejenvomitvos says: i agree and would also like to add history to the list. you'd think that with the absence of math and science all the girls would flock to the humanities courses including history. but at my university, the majority of history majors are male and about a quarter of my history class is female. where are all the girls going?Avatar ImageMagicDucks says: IBM does (or used to do) a summer program to teach girls about science, math, and engineering. I went when I was twelve and it was a lot of fun. Granted, I'm not majoring in any of those things (psych major, English minor), but it was a great learning opportunity. I agree that schools need to make it clear that girls can do math and science.Avatar ImageDorisTLC says: Thanks everyone for the nice comments. I'm excited about programs that help girls rediscover the love of Science and Maths like the one IBM offers. I live very close to The Johnson Space Center and they offer several clinics now to help girls fall in love with Science and Maths.Avatar ImageVerity Weasley says: It's not all doom and gloom. The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), which is the longest running study of its kind, recently released their latest findings showing that girls are outperforming boys in maths and science. The study collects achievement data from year 4 and year 8 and assessed 425,000 students across 59 countries. While gender differences generally are on the decline, internationally girls had higher average achievement than boys. (Incidentally, the reverse was true in Australia, where I am). The countries in which the gender difference is significantly skewed in favour of girls are predominantly Arab countries. Avatar Imagebookmonster79 says: I agree. The university near where I live offers a program for girls 4th-7th grades. It is called Girls In Science day and its a day dedicated to drumming up interest in Science for young girls. They make it really neat and don't totally doll it up. You have classes in everything from agricultural type stuff to forensics and the chemistry of make-up. They top it all off with a chemistry magic show. It is really neat.Avatar ImageScribe says: That was very interesting. Personally, as a girl who hates science and math, I think that a large part of its unattractiveness was that math and science were made to seem so unattractive. Granted, I likely would hate them anyway, but I think that the articles you cited were exactly right--math and science are geared towards boys. I think this is because they were traditionally so, and that the lingering sexism and gender separation shows in residual images and cultural programming. I currently live in Japan, and the number of women who prefer math and science here is much higher than in the US. Although, the gender divide is higher for other professions.Avatar ImageEmily Erland says: There are many of us currently working in industry that want to see girls (and kids in general) get excited about math and science (and the act of learning). Engineers Week is coming up this next week (eweek.org) and I will be volunteering to help show a group of girls around our local air and space museum and do various science experiments. Should be a lot of fun!Avatar ImageThe Silver Doe music says: I agree. Math, especially, is such an important skill and useful in so many other areas. I'm an English major, but I also have a minor in math that I just completed. While there definitely seems to be more guys in my math classes (Linear Algebra was a class of about 25 students, 4 of which were girls), I've been noticing more and more girls throughout the past three years that I've been here. In our Math Society, we have 3 female officers and 2 males. So hopefully things are looking up!Avatar Imagecalliet2b4g says: girls should have as much encouragement as girlsAvatar ImageDobbyandWinky says: HEY! I'm a girl, and my favorite subjects are maths and science... The same are to my two best friends...Avatar ImageWizBang101 says: Well, it's now the opposite in New Zealand. In New Zealand, we figured it out in the late 70s but we made some mistakes. In the 80's we promoted "Girls can do anything" which was successful. So few more girls were able to do man-dominated jobs like the car mechanics trade. In fact the best diesel mechanic in the country was a female but now is a teacher. Anyway the girls are into science and maths such that there are more girls attending our universities than the boys. However, it is noted that now the shoe is on the other foot. In New Zealand, we have gone to far ahead the other way. We noticed the gap of girls being behind boys prior to the 80s and then it was even for both genders by the 90s and now today's boy are statistically and academically lower than their previous male counterparts in the 80s and even early 90s. It is now considered that the boys in school are a classroom timebomb for our country. Whereas the girls has topped the academic ladder more than ever. A possible future of "uneducated, unemployed, unsocial and increasingly violent men." "If the trend continues for 10 years, two-thirds of tertiary students could be female. . . And when the next recession hits there could be a phenomenon of semi-educated, semi-socialised, unemployed young males." "Technology and physical education are prime examples. Boys could do the practical aspects of both, but often failed the standard because they could not write about what they had done as well as girls" "for every six girls who pass only five boys do." "Girls are surrounded by positive role models from an early age, but many boys are not." So if you are going in the right direction with the girls. . . don't forget about the boys. The boys are not even going to the trades as there are shortages in trade more than ever. They are just neglected. New Zealand Education forgot to address them in the 90s. We also forgot about the gifted and talented students as well during the whole process. Here's an news article about our situation that can put a future light on your situation. . . don't make the same mistake. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10382701&pnum=0 Problems identified: One is the role model theory: how boys often grow up without males in their life at home or at school. Second is the feminisation of education theory: because education is driven by females at all levels it manifests itself in a system more suited to girls. Finally is the "it's not cool to be a bloke any more" theory: boys and young men are not sure about who they are, and are a bit confused. "A one-size-fits-all approach isn't the answer to dealing with differences in achievement between boys and girls, any more than it's the answer to dealing with achievement gaps between ethnic groups." "Maybe the only solution is single-sex classes," At moment, some co-ed school are starting to do that. Avatar ImageLoony1393 says: While Ive never been particularly fabulous in Math and Science ( I plan to major in Voice and English Lit), I hate prejudices, and I totally agree with what your saying. However, I know plenty of girls who have been very interested in science, and a majority of my friends want to be doctors, so it may not be that they aren't interested.Avatar Imageacciorusty says: Way to go Doris! As a teacher, I try to get all students excited about Math and Science, especially the girls. As a bit of a science nerd myself, I try to model how girls can be good at science too. Avatar Imagemegan_702 says: hermione would do well in science and math! but i htought she already took arithmancy! lol

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