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Females + Mathematics ...An "Additional" Resource

Last week's review of resources focused on two books that provided information on positive role models for female students doing mathematics. But, more than role models are needed...an proactive effort is needed to further support female students.

Though intended to be a resource for teachers at the elementary school level, Karen Karp et al's book Feisty Females: Inspiring Girls to Think Mathematically (1998) is a good start. Based on a two-year action research project, the text advocates the use of literature with strong female role models as an integral component of mathematics instruction. The key mathematical areas are number and computation, geometry and measurement, algebraic thinking, and probability and statistics....which fits with most district's standards.

Based on their research on what learning strategies work best with female students, the authors outline ways to select books with "feisty female" characters, thoroughly describe the use of lessons in classroom situations, and provide a large list of potential literature resources. The overall goal is to help female students see connections....amongst the story characters, the mathematics being studied, and the students own lives.

The caution: This text was designed for use by elementary teachers. However, a resourceful mathematics teacher can take the book's ideas and adapt them for use at the secondary level. The resources may change, but the ideas transfer. For example, the third chapter "Hands-On, Minds-On, and Hearts-On" is a great introduction to what can be done. Consider this advice:

When girls do not have the opportunity to dig into the learning event, use computers, or handle lab equipment, they experience a separate and distancing experience. Instead, they need to have hands-on and minds-on contact with the instructional activuty for a relevant, significant learning event. Females can gain the feeling of control over mathematics b y playing and messing around with mathematical objects and ideas. Connecting visual models to concepts helps all students as they develop mathematical structures in their minds. The power of visual representation cannot be overemphasized.

More essential than using manipulatives, however, is the connected teaching that links the models to more abstraction. This can be accomplished through ties to eprsonal experiences. Personal scenarios brought into the instruction by a teacher or students help construct lasting meaning and knowledge.
Seems like this is great advice to use with helping male students learn mathematics as well!