Brilliant Minds: Women in Mathematics

By Kristin Marino
Online Colleges Columnist

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It doesn’t take a genius to know this fact: more men go into the field of mathematics than women. What’s not so clear, however, is why this is. There was a time when conventional wisdom said that because women and men are wired differently, men are just better at math. While that misconception has been rejected by people both in and out of the math field, there are still some who insist this is true. Other studies, however, have shown that how well girls do in math compared to boys may depend on how they are tested.


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Regardless of why the disparity exists between men and women seeking degrees and employment in math-related fields, we don’t need to look far to find plenty of examples of historical and contemporary female mathematicians who have made significant contributions to the field. Even so, the Fields Medal, considered to be the equivalent of the Nobel Prize for mathematics (there isn’t actually a Nobel Prize for mathematics), has never been won by a woman.

As researchers continue to study the gender disparity in math, some themes have emerged. While one meta-analysis of a handful of studies led researchers to come to the conclusion that the difference stems from men and women simply being “wired” differently, other studies offer more insightful conclusions, along with some ideas of how to narrow the gap.

The bottom line? Math can be hard—for both men and women. Girls and women need to be encouraged that, even though math can be hard, they are just as capable of finding the answers as their male cohorts.

Sources:

"Biographies of Women Mathematicians," agnesscott.edu, 2013. http://www.agnesscott.edu/lriddle/women/prizes.htm

For a complete list of sources, please view the infographic.

Brilliant Minds: Women in Mathematics

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