Interest in math and science falls for female students

By Kasey Minnick
March 29, 2007

The State/MCT

“I actually saw an Abercrombie and Fitch T-shirt for girls that read ‘I’m no good at math’ and was stunned,” assistant professor of psychology Dr. Melissa Terlecki said.

In many area schools, colleges and universities there has been a decline of interest in the math and science departments among girls. This lack of interest in these fields can stem all the way back to early childhood when girls grew-up with Barbie’s and boys were given chemistry sets.

Sophomore business administration major Brittany Fodero said, “I used to love to play with my Barbies and my brother would sit down with his K’nex, so I would see how boys would be into science more.”

“There was even a Barbie doll years back that had a shirt on that said ‘I don’t like math.’ What is that to tell young girls,” Terlecki said.

According to Time magazine there is no significant gap between fourth grade boys’ and girls’ math scores on national tests, but once they arrive at the high school level, the split is more apparent on the SATs. Girls actually score about seven percent lower on the math section than boys do.

Physician and psychologist Leonard Sax said, “By age 12, you will have girls who don’t like science and boys who don’t like reading and they won’t ever go back.”

The percentages are even more evident when men and women graduate from a college or university. According to Time magazine, in government and the private sector, women occupy just under one quarter of science and engineering jobs. Also, in the academic world, men dominate jobs in the physical science and engineering field.

Because of these statistics, Terlecki is overjoyed to be a part of the program “Discover the Future: A Science and Math Extravaganza for students grades five to seven,” which encourages children to gain interest in the math and science areas at an early age.

This event will take place on Saturday, March 24 at Pennbrook Middle School and Terlecki is one of the women helping to engage children in math and science related activities.

“This is my second year involved with the program and it brings together other women that are scientists, mathematicians and psychologists.”

At “Discover the Future” there will be workshops set up that will test and allow the children to learn aspects of both of these subjects. The workshop that Terlecki holds focuses on spatial ability, which is the ability to mentally manipulate 2-D and 3-D figures. It is usually measured with simple cognitive tests according to

Freshman early childhood education major Paul Levine said, “I can see how girls don’t want to go into math and science because it’s more of a hands-on type of material. Girls like to read and write, and I know I absolutely love math and science.”

Sophomore elementary education major Kara Driver said, “When I was younger and in school, I hated that all of the boys would do better than me on math tests, and then I just started giving-up.”

Tereleki said, “What is the best about the program is how cute the kids are after they are finished for the day. They didn’t know how much fun math and science could be and that’s what makes this event a success.”

Loquitur welcomes your comments and questions on this story. Please send your comments to: The editors will review your comments each week and make corrections if warranted.

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Kasey Minnick

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