US culture is to blame for girls indifference to maths, says expert

October 11th, 2008 - 3:42 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, October 11 (ANI): A University of Wisconsin-Madison expert blames U.S. culture for derailing girls ability to excel in mathematics.
Janet Mertz, a professor of oncology, blasted the age-old opinion that females lack intrinsic aptitude needed for maths, insisting that there were many girls who are exceptionally talented.
She also said that American leadership in the mathematical sciences and related fields was at risk because students, both girls and boys, are veering from such a career trajectory.
It was so happening, she added, because of the low respect American culture places on maths.
She also blamed systemic flaws in the U.S. public school education system, and a lack of role models for worsening the situation.
“The U.S. culture that is discouraging girls is also discouraging boys,” she said in a report, based on a comprehensive analysis of decades of data from extremely difficult mathematics competitions, published in the Notices of the American Mathematical Society.
“The situation is becoming urgent. The data show that a majority of the top young mathematicians in this country were not born here,” she added.
The report said that American children of immigrants from countries where math talent was highly valued, notably Eastern Europeans and Asians, were much more likely to be identified as possessing extraordinary mathematical ability.
It also highlighted the fact that 80 per cent of female and 60 per cent of male faculty hired in recent years by the very top U.S. research university mathematics departments were born in other countries.
“We show that many girls exist who possess extremely high aptitude for mathematical problem solving. The frequency with which they are identified is due, at least in part, to a variety of socio-cultural, educational or other environmental factors that differ significantly among countries and ethnic groups and can change over time,” the authors wrote.
Joseph A. Gallian, a co-author of the report, a professor of mathematics at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, and current president of the Mathematical Association of America, said: “Just as there is concern about the U.S. relying on foreign countries for our oil and manufactured goods, we should also be concerned about relying on others to fill our needs for mathematicians, engineers and scientists.”
Janet insisted that it was time that some necessary steps be taken to avoid a complete loss of maths talent in the country. (ANI)

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