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Experiences in Math Instruction and Gender

enlightenedbumenlightenedbum Registered User regular
Hi H/A!

So on Monday I'm starting a Master's program in secondary education, with the aim of teaching high school math in the future. I had been thinking about this before, but doing my pre-reading which is almost entirely focused on various issues of social justice, it was re-emphasized to me. One of the big issues in math instruction is the gender bias that's often baked in. For example, some studies indicate that merely by asking students about their gender on standardized tests, you'll drop the math scores of girls by a statistically significant amount. And this eventually adds up until it becomes very, very obvious when you step into a math (or engineering/physics/to a lesser extent chem/bio because pre-med is a pretty frequent major for women) classroom on a University campus and the gender proportions are let's say lopsided. And I think we all know how male dominated some math or related industries (cough, gaming, cough) are.

So I've been asking my friends questions similar to the ones below and some of them have ridiculous horror stories. Like a professor here at Michigan telling her that if she re-took a class she had previously gotten an A she could be a "calculus goddess" (EWWW) and recommending she do so. I'm pretty sure I won't do anything quite that bad, but more subtle things I worry about. I'd like to think that merely being aware of the issues will save me from a good amount of the problems, but there's subtle stuff that I will maybe not get. And I haven't been in a high school classroom since 2003, at which time I was less sensitive to all kinds of social justice issues.

From that friend:
Other negative experiences I've had don't really make for stories, per se, but include things like casual comments going unchecked, like "Oh that's pretty good, for a girl"; lack of recognition for an achievement, while my male colleagues receive attention for the same or lesser achievements; lack of confidence in my abilities; or being made to feel as the "token female", and that my successes or failures reflected on the abilities of all women.

Some of that I'm pretty sure I'd avoid (for a girl) while other stuff I'd have to monitor and make sure I'm not doing, I don't know what my default is, because they're not entirely conscious decisions unless you make them so.

So what I would like from you, H/A, is ways in which math classrooms were or were not made to feel like they were biased for or against women. Preferably I'd mostly hear from women. If your classrooms did discourage you from continuing math (or made you do worse in the class) because you were female, what did that look like? If your classroom felt particularly egalitarian, was there anything in particular your teachers did that you think made that happen? Mostly I want subtle things that are maybe not egregiously sexist but are marginal and add up to create a hostile environment. Or were encouraging.

Help me be a better teacher, H/A!

Self-righteousness is incompatible with coalition building.
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    bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    I'm not sure if this is helpful, but the best way to avoid pointing out gender problems is to just not have it be a topic.

    It's a math class, make it about math.

    If someone does a good job, tell them they did a good job, and don't make it about their gender ("that's pretty good for a girl" etc). My advice is going to be kind of generic.

    A bigger deal might be to find kids who are struggling and give them extra math help when needed and don't needlessly embarrass them in front of their peers trying to prove something. My high school math teacher would have the kids who had a hard time always go up to the board to work out math problems and that had a good way of reinforcing the general dislike of math in the kids who already disliked it. That teacher was kind of a jerk though. Don't be like that.

    I know you're looking for female perspectives but I feel like the largest thing teachers do wrong is just sort of making it overly difficult to seek help without making a fool of yourself.

    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
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    enlightenedbumenlightenedbum Registered User regular
    Studies actually show that ignoring it will end up reinforcing it. You need to actively fight against stereotypes to counter their harmful effects.

    Self-righteousness is incompatible with coalition building.
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    bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    Well ignoring it as in don't make it part of the class to bring up gender. There's really no way to bring it up tactfully without ostracizing them further publicly, in my opinion. And anytime you say "You did a really good job for a girl" that just defeats the point of what you're trying to obtain.

    What are your other options there to address it? Well things like math club or failing students. I think you should specifically seek out the girls in the class for those kinds of things. And like I said, find a way to give support to the people who are struggling, which are statistically going to be girls, without being a jerk about it (bringing them up in front of class to do examples or solve homework problems they might have a hard time with). Try to encourage more girls to sign up for the math club or get extra help. Hell maybe even start a tutoring group and get the kids who are doing better involved to help out.

    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
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    enlightenedbumenlightenedbum Registered User regular
    Basically the research indicates that if you do nothing, girls scores will be worse because of ingrained cultural expectations that girls are worse at math than boys. If you bring it up and don't counter it, same thing (obviously). So you have to make a conscious effort to puncture the stereotype.

    Anyway, this is not the point I'm aiming for.

    Self-righteousness is incompatible with coalition building.
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    AkilaeAkilae Registered User regular
    Having read through everything, I'm not quite sure what point you're aiming for. Are you trying to create a level playing field for all students in your class, regardless of their gender, race, SES, so that girls will have an equal chance to perform, or are you trying to create a classroom setting where girls are given the edge to perform to make up for institutional deficiencies?

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    enlightenedbumenlightenedbum Registered User regular
    Akilae wrote: »
    Having read through everything, I'm not quite sure what point you're aiming for. Are you trying to create a level playing field for all students in your class, regardless of their gender, race, SES, so that girls will have an equal chance to perform, or are you trying to create a classroom setting where girls are given the edge to perform to make up for institutional deficiencies?

    A level playing field is the goal. The idea is to see what kinds of things happened that made girls feel like that didn't exist. Basically things to watch out for and correct when I play back the tape on my student teaching. Or particular behaviors from teachers that made it feel like there was a level playing field.

    Self-righteousness is incompatible with coalition building.
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    JebusUDJebusUD Adventure! Candy IslandRegistered User regular
    If you're worried about personal bias in scoring, one of the things you brought up, you could come up with a system to disassociate the names from the test. Generate some kind of random number list. Assign a number to each test, then have them write their name on a number rubric at the end of the test.

    Then you could grade, and assign the grades to the actual person after the grading has been completed. I mean, you probably can't be biased against a number.

    and I wonder about my neighbors even though I don't have them
    but they're listening to every word I say
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    ThroThro pgroome@penny-arcade.com Registered User regular
    This was back in BC (AP) Calculus in highschool. Our teacher (woman in this case, but doesn't really matter) when introducing the next topic mentioned to the one female student left in our class that it may be harder for her to get, since it involved being spacially aware, and women are worse at that.

    Please don't ever do this. I'm not sure the studies are conclusive on female vs. male in spacial awareness. However, the science is in on 'if you tell someone they might do bad on something, they're statistically more likely to do worse'.

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    enlightenedbumenlightenedbum Registered User regular
    Right, that kind of thing I'll be avoiding. It's things like maybe subconsciously I will praise male students more than female without noticing. Things along those lines I'd really want to avoid.

    Also, I think the spatial awareness thing is related to how Legos are marketed, basically.

    Self-righteousness is incompatible with coalition building.
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    bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    Thro wrote: »
    This was back in BC (AP) Calculus in highschool. Our teacher (woman in this case, but doesn't really matter) when introducing the next topic mentioned to the one female student left in our class that it may be harder for her to get, since it involved being spacially aware, and women are worse at that.

    Please don't ever do this. I'm not sure the studies are conclusive on female vs. male in spacial awareness. However, the science is in on 'if you tell someone they might do bad on something, they're statistically more likely to do worse'.

    Even if they were conclusive, that's pretty callous and has no place in school.

    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
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    TelexTelex Registered User regular
    edited June 2015
    I have no direct experience with this (and I am not female), but I read/discussed studies about this phenomenon in the context of race (I believe it was based on essays in a literature class). It is essentially the same problem - minority students were less motivated to get better because there was an assumption that they could not be as good, that even if they tried to be better the stereotype would preclude the teacher realizing it, and that any praise given was based on lowered expectations for their performance.

    The way the article suggested combating this was to provide critiques of work combined with explicit, objective analysis. For example, simply telling a student "You can improve on this essay," did not actually encourage minority students to improve. However, saying "I can see from the way you discussed points A and B that you have a good grasp of the material, and because of that I know you can improve on this essay" did encourage efforts to improve. Something similar could help when encouraging female students in math class.

    I can't remember the exact article this was in, but I found this list of suggestions on how to combat stereotype threat in the classroom. Just glancing at the references I can see that there are some that explicitly talk about female performance in math classes. https://web.stanford.edu/~gwalton/home/Welcome_files/StrategiesToReduceStereotypeThreat.pdf

    EDIT: I found it. Or rather, I found the Atlantic article summarizing the studies (which is way easier to read). The part I was talking about starts under the subheading "How to Reduce Stereotype Threat," but the whole article might be interesting. http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1999/08/thin-ice-stereotype-threat-and-black-college-students/304663/

    Telex on
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    enlightenedbumenlightenedbum Registered User regular
    Yeah, I'm reading a ton of academic literature (unsurprisingly) at the moment and most of that is sort of the solid theoretical background I'm getting, it's practical stuff I worry about and the literature we've been assigned is less clear on it.

    Self-righteousness is incompatible with coalition building.
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    CambiataCambiata Commander Shepard The likes of which even GAWD has never seenRegistered User regular
    I can't recall anything specific to math classes, but from a more general perspective of a woman who plays games and works in a tech industry: One of the most undermining things is people's native assumption (based on no evidence) that you aren't as skilled as other people. That as a woman you are automatically "the fuck up", regardless of whether what you've produced is exactly on level with other students/workers, or is even better. That as a woman you have create work that is not only better than everyone else, but better by a significant margin, before people recognize you as competent. And since it's a subconscious thing, it's really hard to combat (and both women and men are equally guilty of the subconscious assumption of lower competence in women). So I guess if you see a blonde girl that dresses well and wears makeup, recognize that subconsciously that you will set your expectations lower for her, and on a conscious level you have to continually recognize that.

    "If you divide the whole world into just enemies and friends, you'll end up destroying everything" --Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind
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    Pure DinPure Din Boston-areaRegistered User regular
    JebusUD wrote: »
    If you're worried about personal bias in scoring, one of the things you brought up, you could come up with a system to disassociate the names from the test. Generate some kind of random number list. Assign a number to each test, then have them write their name on a number rubric at the end of the test.

    Then you could grade, and assign the grades to the actual person after the grading has been completed. I mean, you probably can't be biased against a number.

    What I do with my students, is have them write their full name on the cover page / rubric sheet, but they only have to write their initials in the corner of rest of the pages (just in case they get unstapled).

    Then I'll flip every test to the same problem or section, and grade that part for every student before moving onto the next. Instead of being in the mindset of how many points to give to take to each student, it puts me in the mindset of how I want to evaluate this particular problem. If three people make the exact same mistake, I write the exact same comments and take the same number of points off.

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    CreaganCreagan Registered User regular
    I had WAY more problems with being a "special ed" student in math than I did because of my gender. Like I can't remember a single instance where being a girl in what I think were "advanced" math classes- my high school was weird. I took level 3 Geometry as a freshman. Level three was "normal" at our high school, but we were told it was actually "honors" at other places and level two was really the "average" class because it was taught to the national average. (Level four was the eq. to AP hardness. There was no level one.)

    Having a diagnosed learning disability and accommodations, while taking those "advanced" math classes, though, was a whole other story. I had teachers tell me they just couldn't teach me, got constantly criticized for making "stupid" mistakes and "careless" errors (which with my dyslexia were inevitable), had teachers make it harder for me to get my extra time, it was suggested that I was cheating because of the way my accommodations worked, my classmates would make comments about people not "deserving" extra time, or complain that "if I had extra time, I'd have gotten an A too."

    Ableism was a much, much bigger issue than sexism.

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    tynictynic PICNIC BADASS Registered User, ClubPA regular
    bowen wrote: »
    Thro wrote: »
    This was back in BC (AP) Calculus in highschool. Our teacher (woman in this case, but doesn't really matter) when introducing the next topic mentioned to the one female student left in our class that it may be harder for her to get, since it involved being spacially aware, and women are worse at that.

    Please don't ever do this. I'm not sure the studies are conclusive on female vs. male in spacial awareness. However, the science is in on 'if you tell someone they might do bad on something, they're statistically more likely to do worse'.

    Even if they were conclusive, that's pretty callous and has no place in school.

    I had a chemistry teacher (nice guy) do the same thing - put up a mutichoice question on the blackboard that asked us to rotate a molecule in our head, then said put up your hand when you've got the answer. My hand went up first, "Oh that's a surprise, women are supposed to be worse at this." Cheers, dude. But I don't remember having any of those kind of issues in maths classes. Unfortunately I can't tell you how to recreate that kind of egalitarian dynamic because it's hard to recognize the absence of something. I'd say just be aware, try to think about how often you call on girls vs guys, whether you have a gendered way of giving praise and encouragement, that sort of thing. Honestly the fact you're even worrying about it is probably an indication you're gonna do fine. I know your main motivation is to try and halt the drain of women away from sciences, but the fact is to your students you will (probably) be one class, in one year. Now that's not nothing! That can make a huge difference! but don't set yourself up for thinking that you have to somehow save every female student who thinks she's bad at maths. This can't be on your shoulders.

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    tapeslingertapeslinger Space Unicorn Slush Ranger Social Justice Rebel ScumRegistered User regular
    Tangential but related experience:

    I'm a technician for an art materials company, and math is a surprisingly necessary and routine part of my job and I'm very fucking good at it. Yeah, I'm a dumb American, but I can work in metric or imperial and I can calculate volumes in my head for a surprising number of standard measures.

    I've had people make me redo sums in front of them because they don't understand how I came to a conclusion (usually a conclusion that they find too expensive, et al) or flat out ask for "a male tech" because they didn't think I'd get the answer they wanted. (ok, dude.)

    On the converse-- I've also had people give the same as tynic mentioned, the "oh, you're not supposed to be good at this" or the "you're good at this for a girl" attempted-compliment.
    like...ok then. I multiplied three numbers, multiplied three slightly smaller numbers, subtracted the smaller from the larger, and extracted a cubic volume of material. It's not rocket science, but I know plenty of men who can't just do that spontaneously, either. I'm not good at it "for a girl".

    Like everyone else is saying, I think being aware of it is the first step and that puts you head and shoulders above most instructors, especially considering the ones who know and really *don't* care...

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    Pure DinPure Din Boston-areaRegistered User regular
    Creagan wrote: »
    I had WAY more problems with being a "special ed" student in math than I did because of my gender. Like I can't remember a single instance where being a girl in what I think were "advanced" math classes- my high school was weird. I took level 3 Geometry as a freshman. Level three was "normal" at our high school, but we were told it was actually "honors" at other places and level two was really the "average" class because it was taught to the national average. (Level four was the eq. to AP hardness. There was no level one.)

    Having a diagnosed learning disability and accommodations, while taking those "advanced" math classes, though, was a whole other story. I had teachers tell me they just couldn't teach me, got constantly criticized for making "stupid" mistakes and "careless" errors (which with my dyslexia were inevitable), had teachers make it harder for me to get my extra time, it was suggested that I was cheating because of the way my accommodations worked, my classmates would make comments about people not "deserving" extra time, or complain that "if I had extra time, I'd have gotten an A too."

    Ableism was a much, much bigger issue than sexism.

    I had somewhat of a similar experience in high school (honors/AP classes + ADHD and some mild speech and hearing issues) and I think in high school I would have also said that ableism was a bigger deal.

    Then I went to an all-women college and things were a little different, because I finally had the experience of lack of sexism. It's hard to articulate, but getting noticed for doing well was a lot easier. Like in high school I just assumed I wasn't smart enough to be one of the students who would get nominated for awards or extra opportunities, but all of a sudden in college I was getting that recognition, even though college was a much more selective and competitive environment in general. Also I felt like I could put myself out there and make mistakes more often, because other people's opinions about me didn't matter as much.

    In general though, I think gender issues in STEM get a lot of attention in ways that other kinds of differences don't. Being in Computer Science now, although women are a minority, at least I know who the other women are. In the six years of my PhD I only ever knew of two other people with learning disabilities. Also becoming more sensitive to subtle forms of sexism I think has made me more sensitive to subtle forms of racism and other forms of discrimination as well. However, I'm fortunate to have mostly taught at the college level, where students are not quite as awkward and sensitive about fitting in. With teenagers you really need to have a softer touch, give them opportunities to bring up whatever issues are affecting them, and let it go from there.

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    CreaganCreagan Registered User regular
    Pure Din wrote: »
    Creagan wrote: »
    I had WAY more problems with being a "special ed" student in math than I did because of my gender. Like I can't remember a single instance where being a girl in what I think were "advanced" math classes- my high school was weird. I took level 3 Geometry as a freshman. Level three was "normal" at our high school, but we were told it was actually "honors" at other places and level two was really the "average" class because it was taught to the national average. (Level four was the eq. to AP hardness. There was no level one.)

    Having a diagnosed learning disability and accommodations, while taking those "advanced" math classes, though, was a whole other story. I had teachers tell me they just couldn't teach me, got constantly criticized for making "stupid" mistakes and "careless" errors (which with my dyslexia were inevitable), had teachers make it harder for me to get my extra time, it was suggested that I was cheating because of the way my accommodations worked, my classmates would make comments about people not "deserving" extra time, or complain that "if I had extra time, I'd have gotten an A too."

    Ableism was a much, much bigger issue than sexism.

    I had somewhat of a similar experience in high school (honors/AP classes + ADHD and some mild speech and hearing issues) and I think in high school I would have also said that ableism was a bigger deal.

    Then I went to an all-women college and things were a little different, because I finally had the experience of lack of sexism. It's hard to articulate, but getting noticed for doing well was a lot easier. Like in high school I just assumed I wasn't smart enough to be one of the students who would get nominated for awards or extra opportunities, but all of a sudden in college I was getting that recognition, even though college was a much more selective and competitive environment in general. Also I felt like I could put myself out there and make mistakes more often, because other people's opinions about me didn't matter as much.

    In general though, I think gender issues in STEM get a lot of attention in ways that other kinds of differences don't. Being in Computer Science now, although women are a minority, at least I know who the other women are. In the six years of my PhD I only ever knew of two other people with learning disabilities. Also becoming more sensitive to subtle forms of sexism I think has made me more sensitive to subtle forms of racism and other forms of discrimination as well. However, I'm fortunate to have mostly taught at the college level, where students are not quite as awkward and sensitive about fitting in. With teenagers you really need to have a softer touch, give them opportunities to bring up whatever issues are affecting them, and let it go from there.

    I still don't think I necessarily dealt with the kind of sexism we're talking about right now when I was in high school. (Don't get me wrong, I did experience plenty of sexism, just not what you're describing.) Because there is a major difference between what you're describing, and what I experienced.

    In high school, you were effectively told that you just weren't smart enough to get nominated for awards or extra opportunities because you got passed up for that stuff. And that changed when you went to an all-women college.

    Half of the time, I was being told I was smart enough to get those awards or extra opportunities, I wasn't getting them because I was careless, disorganized, "lazy," didn't check my work often enough, didn't check my work carefully enough, didn't manage my time properly... Basically if I tried harder, I'd have been in that AP class. Or been able to take Calculus in high school instead of Statistics.

    The reason I didn't discuss this in my last post is because it's "softer" ableism, and I was worried it'd detract from my point because sometimes people misunderstand it as encouragement. But what it means is, half the time I didn't have anything similar to your experience. There was no middle ground when it came to my intelligence. Either I wasn't that smart, or I was smart but didn't try hard enough. And in both cases, ableism was the driving force behind the mindset.

    When I got to college and things were easier for me, it was because I was FINALLY able to learn in ways that worked best for me, on my own time. I could take essay-based classes instead of ones that required a final exam. I could take discussion based classes to capitalize on my good verbal memory (and avoid using my shitty visual one.) I felt more comfortable asking questions and making mistakes because that's what you're supposed to do in discussion based classes. In lecture based high school classes, teachers behave like students are wasting time or weren't paying attention when they ask questions and make mistakes.

    That's why I think ableism was more of a problem for me. But we went to different high schools, probably miles apart, and definitely different colleges. So it could be a regional thing.

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    bsjezzbsjezz Registered User regular
    from a point of practice, this is actually - potentially - a cross-faculty problem. there's this very strange gender divide between english and maths staff rooms, perhaps exaggerated because they're pretty well the "big two." girls do well at english, boys do well at maths, yadayadayada. as a currently active english teacher, it's horrifying how many teachers think it's alright to say "i'm terrible at maths!" it's treated like - more often than not, in front of their students - a badge of honour

    personally, i take it seriously, especially my responsibility to teach numeracy. english teachers get uppity at the thought that no others take their responsibility with literacy seriously - so why not the other way around? i bring nat geo in as often as i can, use graphs and talk about code or algebra. (macbeth's tragic hubris is his grand sense of x, where x = ambition OR guilt OR fear). that's great, but i'm an outlier. what do you do about all the other english teachers who have the ears of the smart, well-read girls who are getting As and making jokes about not knowing what two plus two equals?

    it's really a matter of being pro-active in the professional context of the school community, making a point to bring it up as school-wide professional learning or whatever. we all need to come in with our passions as new teachers. they will probably change as the reality hits, but you need them to ground yourself, anyway. if you do, come in aiming high. the kids are transient. the teachers - and their ideas - stick around for decades.

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    enlightenedbumenlightenedbum Registered User regular
    The cross faculty thing seems to be a thing they program will be emphasizing, just based on the first week of reading which I'm guessing is an indicator of the general intent of the program. I'll know more Monday. And yeah cross disciplinary stuff is something I'm interesting in trying to do though in my case it would probably be more focused on sort of social studies-ish areas. I said this in D&D a few weeks ago, but I *really* think stat should be mandatory at the high school level, and that it's more useful for most students to know that than trig/calc. As a sort of good citizenship thing/bullshit detector.

    @Creagan

    So in college did you take math classes that allowed you to be more successful? If so, what did that look like? If not, what do you think it would have looked like?

    Is it just making allowances in terms of extra time (and obviously not talking down to you and what not, but I'm there) and whenever I see classmates making the kinds of comments you say they were making shutting that down ASAP?

    As a sort of general rule, my plan is to be somewhat less concerned with the answer than the process of getting to the answer, though that'll probably have to change when I see just how high stakes the testing is for me. Stupid testing.

    Self-righteousness is incompatible with coalition building.
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    SwashbucklerXXSwashbucklerXX Swashbucklin' Canuck Registered User regular
    edited June 2015
    So here's my thing. I'm female, and grew up as an honours student in everything but math, with which I always struggled. I was always put in the "lower" math group in elementary school, a group that was almost all girls. Nobody ever questioned that I was there, including myself. I was just "bad at math." Both my parents hate math, so they never really questioned it either... not so much a gender thing for them but just the idea that, yeah, math kind of sucks. I could never hold numbers in my head. I used my fingers to assist myself in calculating things because visual aids helped. This helped reinforce the idea that I was bad at math, and of course I was made fun of for using my fingers.

    Nonetheless, I managed to get all the way through the first semester of trigonometry in high school even though I didn't understand a damn thing I was doing after geometry. I just memorized how to move the numbers around in various types of equations.

    When I got to university, I ended up making friends with a lot of people who were math majors, and they helped me understand some things I'd never understood. For instance, no elementary or high school teacher ever told me that a fraction symbol is actually a division sign. Mind. Blown. I also started reading about and observing my actual issues with math. I passed statistics with flying colours, because groups of people were something solid that I could conceptualize. In genetics, I failed my in-class tests, in which we had to manipulate strands of DNA in our minds, but got an A in lab because I was able to physically manipulate DNA models. I happened to read about the problems that Carl Jung had with math, and realized that they were the exact same issues I'd always had. Something complex and diagnosable was probably going on with me.

    Chances are very good that I have a learning disability that affects my ability to make calculations and spatial manipulations in my mind, but it's never been diagnosed, because by the time I realized that something more complex than, "I'm bad at math" was going on, it was too late and I'd already arranged my life so that I avoided math whenever possible. As an adult, I have plenty of survival techniques that help me get along despite my numeric issues. I draw a lot of pictures so I can visualize mathmatical problems. I turn phone numbers into words so I can remember them. I make sure to use maps and landmarks when navigating, because I can't triangulate my position in my mind. I write for a living, so the most advanced math I use in my daily life is an Excel spreadsheet used for invoicing my employers. I've got the sum function down! :-p

    I feel like there are a few reasons I slipped through the cracks. The first is definitely gender. My teachers never looked closely at the actual struggles I was having with math because I was female. I, as a smart girl who was determined to fight against gender discrimination, learned to hide my struggles by the time I was a teenager, so my trig teacher was genuinely shocked when I dropped the class halfway through the year.

    "But you have an A," she said. "Yeah, but I have no idea what any of it means, and when we started to do pre-calc, I realized that just memorization wouldn't cut it anymore," I answered. Her eyes bugged out. It's sad, because she (and my excellent algebra 2 teacher) probably could have helped me if I'd thought to go to them for help, but at that point I was in full-on survival mode. I had to do well in x number of math classes in order to get into a good uni, and thus my goal was grades, not comprehension. Elementary school had already discouraged me enough that I just grit my teeth and faked my way through it.

    And to get back to elementary school, that was the second big issue that screwed me over, math-wise. My 4th-6th grade teachers were all women who hated and didn't really understand math. We didn't have a special math teacher. I was never introduced to long division because I'd moved, and my 4th grade teacher thought I should have learned it in 3rd grade (I hadn't) and wasn't really capable of teaching it herself. Math time was mostly just filling out formulas and worksheets from our math books. My 6th grade teacher was the worst. She relied on "math yarns," worksheets that were supposed to help kids access their instinctive knowledge of math. I constantly failed my math yarn assignments because my brain didn't work correctly for them. She never tried to help me figure out why I was failing them. I'm not sure she had the toolset to do so. She just graded me low at math. I cried at home, and my parents were sad and frustrated because they couldn't help me, either. There was definitely some cross-generational gender stuff going on there... women who had been raised without high expectations for their math ability passing that on to the next generation of girls.

    So if I could ask for anything from prospective teachers, it'd be this:

    1. Know and understand that mathematical learning disabilities exist. Find out what resources exist in your school system for diagnosis and assistance.

    2. Don't freaking seat your students in "math groups." Because of institutionalized sexism, this ends up with more girls on the bottom and boys at the top, visually reinforcing the idea that girls are bad at math.

    3. When any student is struggling at math, try to unpack why that is. Help them to articulate what they understand about what they're doing. Help them articulate how they feel about math. I feel like if any of my teachers along the way had done that with me instead of just assuming I was "bad at math," they might have been able to, if nothing else, identify some of the gaps in my math education, and maybe even realized that I might have a learning disability.

    4. Know and support multiple ways of learning. Never discourage a student from using their fingers or physical objects to help with calcuations. In fact, encourage the use of physical objects to aid in comprehension! The ability to do calculations in one's head is over-valued, especially in lower grades. The ability to comprehend what you're doing when you make a calculation is far more important. Sure, at some points you just have to buckle down and memorize stuff like the times tables, and that's ok, but too many teachers hold class in a way that privileges students who are able to calculate quickly in their heads over students who understand the math just as well, but need a bit more time or need to write down numbers or draw pictures in order to get the right answer.

    Most of these things aren't directly about gender, and that's just fine. You've already got the important parts of the gender issues in your head. The rest is about striving to understand and value each kid equally, and never giving in to the idea that some people are just "bad at math." There's always a reason why a kid is struggling at math, and it's important to find out why instead of making them endlessly repeat the same things in a downward spiral of incomprehension.

    SwashbucklerXX on
    Want to find me on a gaming service? I'm SwashbucklerXX everywhere.
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    UsagiUsagi Nah Registered User regular
    Above posts aside, the biggest issue is probably that by the time women get to high school the pattern has already been set: negative reinforcement in grade school, by teachers but more importantly peers and families, is your biggest hurdle. Things to watch out for would be positive reinforcement based on gender (you're good at this for a girl), insulting based on gender (that girl is better at this than you, what's the matter?), etc which has really already been covered by others in the thread.

    But honestly, the thing that helped me the most? I went to an all girl high school. We didn't have the social distraction of boys, or the same worries about being shamed or bullied for being good at math. And I continue to see this in my high school STEM volunteering, the mostly girl or all-girl classes/groups/science-sport teams have fewer social conditioning issues to work past while also try to learn.

    So you really want to help? Start an all girl STEM after school program, like Science Olympiad or a FIRST robotics team. Bring in guest teachers and speakers who are women, all ages, all races, different backgrounds, different career paths, to talk about their experiences and show that hell yes, women are good at math. Start a mentoring program for seniors to guide freshmen (we called ours GEMS, girls who excel at math and science).

    Give these young women a safe space to learn without social distraction or consequences.

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    schussschuss Registered User regular
    A couple of things come to mind when it comes to effective teaching and confidence control (which looks like one of the issues you're trying to address). Note that I am not a teacher, just someone who's mentored a bunch of people and taught subjects in a business context.
    1. Teach everything in 2 different ways - very few people will get it the first time every time for "your way", so try to look at each piece of material and figure out different ways to teach it. It may help sitting with someone who has a totally different mental process to see how effective you are at this.
    2. Start everyone at 100 and explain how each score goes into that. Sometimes starting at 100 rather than 0 can be huge for people, as they feel they start in a stronger position. The mental game of "protecting your score" can sometimes be easier to manage than "I have to earn points so I don't fall behind".

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    JuliusJulius Captain of Serenity on my shipRegistered User regular
    Pure Din wrote: »
    JebusUD wrote: »
    If you're worried about personal bias in scoring, one of the things you brought up, you could come up with a system to disassociate the names from the test. Generate some kind of random number list. Assign a number to each test, then have them write their name on a number rubric at the end of the test.

    Then you could grade, and assign the grades to the actual person after the grading has been completed. I mean, you probably can't be biased against a number.

    What I do with my students, is have them write their full name on the cover page / rubric sheet, but they only have to write their initials in the corner of rest of the pages (just in case they get unstapled).

    Then I'll flip every test to the same problem or section, and grade that part for every student before moving onto the next. Instead of being in the mindset of how many points to give to take to each student, it puts me in the mindset of how I want to evaluate this particular problem. If three people make the exact same mistake, I write the exact same comments and take the same number of points off.

    yeah there is all kinds of methods of anonymous grading. There is still debate over whether it works as good as we think it would and stuff but I think it's better than not doing it.

    One of the problems is that it's still possible to identify gender from hand-writing somewhat, so the room for bias is still there. Then again it's probably easier to fight the bias when it's the only thing you see and math should have less hand writing than other courses.

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    ceresceres When the last moon is cast over the last star of morning And the future has past without even a last desperate warningRegistered User, Moderator mod
    To talk a bit more about what @SwashbucklerXX said:

    I always thought I was just terrible at math. I brute-forced my way through Calculus I for math majors because the teacher was the kindest, most helpful person I'd met who taught any subject ever, I needed at least "easy" Calc for my major, and he only taught the hardest version of it. But I was just not willing to lose him as a teacher as I'd done so well with him in previous classes, so I took the class anyway. I described the trouble I had (keeping track of formulas past the first few numbers - it's like everything just rearranges itself to form a cloud on the page) and he bent over backwards to get me through. After each test (that I would invariably fail) he would let me see him in his office hours and went over each and every problem with me. He wanted to see if I knew the flow of logic and understood in theory how to do the problem, because there were a lot of times where I got terms mixed up partway through, or just straight-up read the arrangement wrong in the first place. If he could see where I was going with it and where things went wrong even though I didn't get the answer right, he would give me most of the points for the question back. Not all of them since I did get things wrong along the way, but enough that I passed the class with a B+ instead of, you know, not passing with a 30%. He offered that to everyone in the class, and said I was the only person to so seriously take him up on it. I spent hours in his office every week, but I was so desperate not to lose that lifeline.

    I did my homework in there, went to him with every quiz and test, and he knew exactly where I was in my study. There were times when we'd go over a problem he would look through my work and say "yeah, I know you know how to do this. I see exactly where you reversed things and I'm just going to give you credit for it." He said I could clearly do this, I just had some trouble getting through it.

    I learned from him that even though in my head I am awful at it, I actually really love math at that level. He told me about his thesis, which was on q-continued fractions. He'd actually discovered something new in the field! It sounded amazing. This all happened in 2010.

    I described the problem I had to a lab tech I was chatting with that semester, and she said "that almost sounds like you have a learning disability." I said of course I don't, some people are just bad at math, right? "Yeah, but the way you talk about not being able to read the problem after the first few terms..." But that's ridiculous, I was always in the gifted program. I took all the AP classes in high school (except math). I somehow managed not to fail up until now. People with learning disabilities don't make it through calculus, and I always did so well in everything else without even studying.

    Which is good, because I couldn't study. I could never figure out how studying worked, I always thought it was some sort of magic or something that everyone else seemed so easily able to sit down and do. Like somehow staring at a textbook and turning pages let them breathe in the information in a way I just couldn't make work no matter how long I did it. I could never do the end-of-chapter problems either. It just didn't work. I sat down to them and nothing happened. If someone gave me specific points to look at for the test I did okay, but saying "study chapter 10" may as well have been "learn Greek by falling asleep listening to an audiobook." It just wasn't going to happen and the connections required to make it happen didn't exist.

    This past September I was diagnosed with ADD, confirmed ADHD in March. I have dyscalculia! Hah! If I took another math class and did the homework and took the tests with the medication I am on now (possibly with a little extra time), I might do great! I plan to as soon as it's feasible since for now I'm kind of stuck, but that medication? It's completely changed my life. I'm still in the process of figuring out how to be functional, but after 34 years I know it's possible, and that's the most amazing thing.

    I turned 34 in May, and it kills me how much of my life I lost to this.

    I talked to the person who diagnosed me about this at some length, and there are two things going on here:

    1) ADHD does not always look like bouncing-off-the-walls energy. Hyperactivity takes a lot of forms, and it's not always throwing erasers and overturning desks. For me, one of the ways it manifests is that my eyeballs will literally not look at something for more than a second or two at a time unless I am fascinated by it and also stimulated on a very particular level. I can force it, but it takes effort and energy and my vision quickly starts to lose focus. The thing is, teachers don't know that. Kids don't know that. It's never explained. Dyscalculia is a symptom, but these disabilities are so stigmatized in this country that the education just isn't out there and people are either too rarely diagnosed, which lets people slip through the cracks, or too easily diagnosed to the point where people don't think it's a real thing. If you ask for help people think you're trying to cheat unless you're no good at literally everything. Teachers reinforce that, peers reinforce it, parents reinforce it, and often none of these people realize they're doing it or who they're hurting.

    My recommendation is that if you see someone struggling over the long term, talk to them and try to figure out with them where the disconnect lies, and really listen to what they're saying, regardless of gender. This is a huge problem, especially in math classes. I've had teachers just get frustrated with me and shut down when I asked for help because no matter how they explained something I could not sit down and do the problem right unless it was the exact one we just talked our way through. It's not that I had a problem, it's that I wasn't really trying. If someone bursts into tears after the fifth time you've explained something, maybe pay attention to that.

    2) According to my diagnosing physician, middle-aged women are the single most underdiagnosed population with ADD/ADHD, and it had honestly never even occurred to me as a possibility before I related to someone's post on this very forum. With that period in the 90s or whenever when doctors loved handing out that diagnosis to children, how can it be that there are so very many undiagnosed women with ADD and ADHD?

    It's pretty simple, really. Women and girls are eccentric and flighty and quirky and that's not a problem, that's just how they are. Girls don't have learning disabilities, they're probably just distracted by a flower outside. Okay sometimes I was, but that's because looking at the paper didn't help. Nobody questions it, because a certain amount of those things is considered attractive and fun, at least until you leave them because they can't even get basic chores done around the house and what the hell is wrong with them that they can't unpack or pick up the trash? It's more likely they're just lazy and won't. Yeah, they're sitting there crying about it, but bitches be crazy, m i rite?

    It's to do with the fact that girls tend not to express hyperactivity the same way as boys. They are far more likely to fidget and lose focus than jump up and down on a desk, and there have been some very, very interesting studies done on internalization (more common in girls) vs externalization (more common in boys), as well as studies suggesting that anxiety and depression may actually develop as a result of internalizing ADHD as a child. Dyscaculia as a symptom means that this can disproportionately affect performance in math classes, which is what I've seen all throughout my life. It's good to be aware of that.

    In the end, honestly the best thing you can do is pay attention. To everybody. Reach out when you see a problem.

    And it seems like all is dying, and would leave the world to mourn
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    CreaganCreagan Registered User regular
    @Creagan

    So in college did you take math classes that allowed you to be more successful? If so, what did that look like? If not, what do you think it would have looked like?

    Is it just making allowances in terms of extra time (and obviously not talking down to you and what not, but I'm there) and whenever I see classmates making the kinds of comments you say they were making shutting that down ASAP?

    As a sort of general rule, my plan is to be somewhat less concerned with the answer than the process of getting to the answer, though that'll probably have to change when I see just how high stakes the testing is for me. Stupid testing.

    I took math-ish classes. They were the humanities-aimed math classes, but they were by no means "easy." Like, we were learning about why different math functions work in different systems. For example, why in a base ten math system, 1 + 1 = 2 And then that translated into rotating triangles and patterns and working with groups and stuff.

    It didn't exactly work well with my learning issues, but the thing is, I was allowed to learn in a way that worked better for me. There were weekly review sessions with a TA, where I was supposed to talk to somebody about how the problems worked. In high school, I could meet with teachers during a free period (if I had one that matched up with their off-time and they didn't have a meeting), but that involved going to the noisy Math Department office, and "intruding." So even though I can't say my grades were better, I can say getting those grades was MUCH easier. I didn't have to fight to do my best, I could just do my best.

    Now, I should note that I am not a person who will ever excel in a math class. I'm good at understanding how math works and explaining how to do it, but I flip digits and will do graphs in the wrong direction, or use the opposite sign, and get graded down for that. (There is a difference between being bad at math and being bad at math class. I am the later.)

    I also took three stats-based social science classes, and in that case I was able to do whatever I wanted to reach my conclusions. So my disability wasn't an issue then either. (The fact that they wanted us to learn R completely independently was.)

    As for the stuff my classmates said, I was the only person who shut them down. My teachers either didn't hear them say it, or my teachers had already said worse stuff to me so I didn't bother telling them.

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    Pure DinPure Din Boston-areaRegistered User regular
    Creagan wrote: »
    Pure Din wrote: »
    Creagan wrote: »
    I had WAY more problems with being a "special ed" student in math than I did because of my gender. Like I can't remember a single instance where being a girl in what I think were "advanced" math classes- my high school was weird. I took level 3 Geometry as a freshman. Level three was "normal" at our high school, but we were told it was actually "honors" at other places and level two was really the "average" class because it was taught to the national average. (Level four was the eq. to AP hardness. There was no level one.)

    Having a diagnosed learning disability and accommodations, while taking those "advanced" math classes, though, was a whole other story. I had teachers tell me they just couldn't teach me, got constantly criticized for making "stupid" mistakes and "careless" errors (which with my dyslexia were inevitable), had teachers make it harder for me to get my extra time, it was suggested that I was cheating because of the way my accommodations worked, my classmates would make comments about people not "deserving" extra time, or complain that "if I had extra time, I'd have gotten an A too."

    Ableism was a much, much bigger issue than sexism.

    I had somewhat of a similar experience in high school (honors/AP classes + ADHD and some mild speech and hearing issues) and I think in high school I would have also said that ableism was a bigger deal.

    Then I went to an all-women college and things were a little different, because I finally had the experience of lack of sexism. It's hard to articulate, but getting noticed for doing well was a lot easier. Like in high school I just assumed I wasn't smart enough to be one of the students who would get nominated for awards or extra opportunities, but all of a sudden in college I was getting that recognition, even though college was a much more selective and competitive environment in general. Also I felt like I could put myself out there and make mistakes more often, because other people's opinions about me didn't matter as much.

    In general though, I think gender issues in STEM get a lot of attention in ways that other kinds of differences don't. Being in Computer Science now, although women are a minority, at least I know who the other women are. In the six years of my PhD I only ever knew of two other people with learning disabilities. Also becoming more sensitive to subtle forms of sexism I think has made me more sensitive to subtle forms of racism and other forms of discrimination as well. However, I'm fortunate to have mostly taught at the college level, where students are not quite as awkward and sensitive about fitting in. With teenagers you really need to have a softer touch, give them opportunities to bring up whatever issues are affecting them, and let it go from there.

    I still don't think I necessarily dealt with the kind of sexism we're talking about right now when I was in high school. (Don't get me wrong, I did experience plenty of sexism, just not what you're describing.) Because there is a major difference between what you're describing, and what I experienced.

    In high school, you were effectively told that you just weren't smart enough to get nominated for awards or extra opportunities because you got passed up for that stuff. And that changed when you went to an all-women college.

    Half of the time, I was being told I was smart enough to get those awards or extra opportunities, I wasn't getting them because I was careless, disorganized, "lazy," didn't check my work often enough, didn't check my work carefully enough, didn't manage my time properly... Basically if I tried harder, I'd have been in that AP class. Or been able to take Calculus in high school instead of Statistics.

    The reason I didn't discuss this in my last post is because it's "softer" ableism, and I was worried it'd detract from my point because sometimes people misunderstand it as encouragement. But what it means is, half the time I didn't have anything similar to your experience. There was no middle ground when it came to my intelligence. Either I wasn't that smart, or I was smart but didn't try hard enough. And in both cases, ableism was the driving force behind the mindset.

    When I got to college and things were easier for me, it was because I was FINALLY able to learn in ways that worked best for me, on my own time. I could take essay-based classes instead of ones that required a final exam. I could take discussion based classes to capitalize on my good verbal memory (and avoid using my shitty visual one.) I felt more comfortable asking questions and making mistakes because that's what you're supposed to do in discussion based classes. In lecture based high school classes, teachers behave like students are wasting time or weren't paying attention when they ask questions and make mistakes.

    That's why I think ableism was more of a problem for me. But we went to different high schools, probably miles apart, and definitely different colleges. So it could be a regional thing.

    Hmm, so would you say that for you, college was better because you could specialize in academic areas where the content and instruction was better suited to you? Because yeah, you're right that our experiences are very different then. Despite the ADHD and stuff I was still able to do things like take AP calc and stats simultaneously (and get straight As in both!) but my actual work didn't matter because my teachers couldn't see past a particular stereotype.

    However, I wouldn't label the discrimination you describe as "softer" ableism, because to me it sounds horrible and hostile that a teacher would tell a student with a disability, and the teacher knows the student has a disability, that it's the student's fault for not trying hard enough, or that they're lazy, or whatever. Even if the teacher meant well, he or she really should have known better.

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    enlightenedbumenlightenedbum Registered User regular
    2. Don't freaking seat your students in "math groups." Because of institutionalized sexism, this ends up with more girls on the bottom and boys at the top, visually reinforcing the idea that girls are bad at math.

    I want to ask exactly what you mean by this. When I was in high school, my best experiences were in classes where students were seated in groups and allowed time to basically work through the homework together. Kids who didn't understand could first ask a classmate to help them, which usually helped the struggling kid to understand and the kid who knew to reinforce that they understood it (if you can teach a thing, you know the thing).

    My inclination is to replicate that kind of thing (though I'd probably rotate the groups on a fairly regular basis) and the stuff I'm reading that wants teachers to build a community among their students seems to reinforce that inclination, so I'm curious to know the kinds of things you mean by "math groups."

    Self-righteousness is incompatible with coalition building.
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    CambiataCambiata Commander Shepard The likes of which even GAWD has never seenRegistered User regular
    Sorry for a aside, but this thread reminded me that I had been diagnosed with ADD a few years back, and I hadn't been to school for forever until the past month or so and this week has been it has been so incredibly difficult to try to focus, so much so that it's painful. Painful physically. And of course, now I realize, I need to get back on some medication for ADD if I'm going to attempt serious study. So thanks all for discussing it to a point where I recognized my own symptoms, it's appreciated.

    "If you divide the whole world into just enemies and friends, you'll end up destroying everything" --Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind
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    CreaganCreagan Registered User regular
    edited June 2015
    Pure Din wrote: »
    Creagan wrote: »
    Pure Din wrote: »
    Creagan wrote: »
    I had WAY more problems with being a "special ed" student in math than I did because of my gender. Like I can't remember a single instance where being a girl in what I think were "advanced" math classes- my high school was weird. I took level 3 Geometry as a freshman. Level three was "normal" at our high school, but we were told it was actually "honors" at other places and level two was really the "average" class because it was taught to the national average. (Level four was the eq. to AP hardness. There was no level one.)

    Having a diagnosed learning disability and accommodations, while taking those "advanced" math classes, though, was a whole other story. I had teachers tell me they just couldn't teach me, got constantly criticized for making "stupid" mistakes and "careless" errors (which with my dyslexia were inevitable), had teachers make it harder for me to get my extra time, it was suggested that I was cheating because of the way my accommodations worked, my classmates would make comments about people not "deserving" extra time, or complain that "if I had extra time, I'd have gotten an A too."

    Ableism was a much, much bigger issue than sexism.

    I had somewhat of a similar experience in high school (honors/AP classes + ADHD and some mild speech and hearing issues) and I think in high school I would have also said that ableism was a bigger deal.

    Then I went to an all-women college and things were a little different, because I finally had the experience of lack of sexism. It's hard to articulate, but getting noticed for doing well was a lot easier. Like in high school I just assumed I wasn't smart enough to be one of the students who would get nominated for awards or extra opportunities, but all of a sudden in college I was getting that recognition, even though college was a much more selective and competitive environment in general. Also I felt like I could put myself out there and make mistakes more often, because other people's opinions about me didn't matter as much.

    In general though, I think gender issues in STEM get a lot of attention in ways that other kinds of differences don't. Being in Computer Science now, although women are a minority, at least I know who the other women are. In the six years of my PhD I only ever knew of two other people with learning disabilities. Also becoming more sensitive to subtle forms of sexism I think has made me more sensitive to subtle forms of racism and other forms of discrimination as well. However, I'm fortunate to have mostly taught at the college level, where students are not quite as awkward and sensitive about fitting in. With teenagers you really need to have a softer touch, give them opportunities to bring up whatever issues are affecting them, and let it go from there.

    I still don't think I necessarily dealt with the kind of sexism we're talking about right now when I was in high school. (Don't get me wrong, I did experience plenty of sexism, just not what you're describing.) Because there is a major difference between what you're describing, and what I experienced.

    In high school, you were effectively told that you just weren't smart enough to get nominated for awards or extra opportunities because you got passed up for that stuff. And that changed when you went to an all-women college.

    Half of the time, I was being told I was smart enough to get those awards or extra opportunities, I wasn't getting them because I was careless, disorganized, "lazy," didn't check my work often enough, didn't check my work carefully enough, didn't manage my time properly... Basically if I tried harder, I'd have been in that AP class. Or been able to take Calculus in high school instead of Statistics.

    The reason I didn't discuss this in my last post is because it's "softer" ableism, and I was worried it'd detract from my point because sometimes people misunderstand it as encouragement. But what it means is, half the time I didn't have anything similar to your experience. There was no middle ground when it came to my intelligence. Either I wasn't that smart, or I was smart but didn't try hard enough. And in both cases, ableism was the driving force behind the mindset.

    When I got to college and things were easier for me, it was because I was FINALLY able to learn in ways that worked best for me, on my own time. I could take essay-based classes instead of ones that required a final exam. I could take discussion based classes to capitalize on my good verbal memory (and avoid using my shitty visual one.) I felt more comfortable asking questions and making mistakes because that's what you're supposed to do in discussion based classes. In lecture based high school classes, teachers behave like students are wasting time or weren't paying attention when they ask questions and make mistakes.

    That's why I think ableism was more of a problem for me. But we went to different high schools, probably miles apart, and definitely different colleges. So it could be a regional thing.

    Hmm, so would you say that for you, college was better because you could specialize in academic areas where the content and instruction was better suited to you? Because yeah, you're right that our experiences are very different then. Despite the ADHD and stuff I was still able to do things like take AP calc and stats simultaneously (and get straight As in both!) but my actual work didn't matter because my teachers couldn't see past a particular stereotype.

    However, I wouldn't label the discrimination you describe as "softer" ableism, because to me it sounds horrible and hostile that a teacher would tell a student with a disability, and the teacher knows the student has a disability, that it's the student's fault for not trying hard enough, or that they're lazy, or whatever. Even if the teacher meant well, he or she really should have known better.

    It goes a little beyond specializing in stuff I was better suited for- I was actually able to let myself learn in ways that work better for me. I wasn't forced to make flashcards (which don't work for me.) I wasn't told to "visualize" anything. If I didn't want to take notes, I didn't have to take notes. (That was huge- taking notes makes it harder for me to absorb information during a lecture. I'm way better off just recording the professor and re-listening to the lecture as needed.)

    So it wasn't that I was better at humanities-stuff and found success away from math. I'm actually pretty decent at math & science when nobody's actively throwing roadblocks at me. I took Geometry as a freshman in high school, and was in the math-oriented science track. (You took Physics first, then Chemistry, then Biology.) I was in AP chemistry. In college, I took the statistics-oriented social science classes instead of the more philosophical ones. I did well in the natsci classes I took, along with the one about infectious diseases. Sure, you have to take tests more regularly in those classes, but I probably would have done fine the biological sciences if I'd decided to go down that rout.

    The reason I used the term "softer ableism" is because abled people frequently misunderstand it as a compliment. Like, they were saying I was smart, so what was the problem? The teachers wanted me to do well, that's why they were pushing me. It's not as obvious or blatant as pushing a physically disabled kid in the mud and laughing at them for having a hard time getting up, or telling a kid with Down Syndrome they're a useless drain on government resources. It's a micro-aggression, and people aren't trained to see it so they don't understand it, or don't understand why it's so incredibly damaging. I didn't mean "soft ableism" as in less damaging. A marshmallow is just as capable of choking you to death as a rock is, but other people don't think marshmallows are as dangerous.

    (And for any able people who are confused about why being told you're so smart you'd be doing better if you tried harder is a problem: The only time I have ever felt good about the amount of work I put into academics was when I took a full course load of writing-intensive classes, one of which was at the graduate level. I had 18 papers due in 10 weeks, barely slept, and averaged an A- that quarter. I had no social life, my eye twitched all through finals, and I developed an anxiety disorder along with mild Trichotillomania during that quarter. And I still feel like THAT'S how hard I should be working, all the time. Because it's the only time nobody told me I needed to try harder, focus more, or plan my time better.)

    Creagan on
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    ceresceres When the last moon is cast over the last star of morning And the future has past without even a last desperate warningRegistered User, Moderator mod
    When you tell someone who is doing their best and still struggling that they'd be better if they tried harder you're telling them that there's no way for them ever to be good enough. And at that point, why bother?

    And it seems like all is dying, and would leave the world to mourn
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    CambiataCambiata Commander Shepard The likes of which even GAWD has never seenRegistered User regular
    I recall reading about a study that showed that telling students, "I'm proud of you for working so hard on that" is far more motivating than, "you're so smart" or "you're so talented." That the acknowledgement of their hard work makes them want to work harder. I can only imagine how much the reverse of "you're not working hard enough", when you really are trying your best, would de-motivate someone.

    "If you divide the whole world into just enemies and friends, you'll end up destroying everything" --Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind
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    CreaganCreagan Registered User regular
    edited June 2015
    The reason it was damaging for me, is because of the way conversations about effort tended to go. Basically any mistake I seemed to make was chalked up to not trying hard enough, regardless of whether or not I insisted I had done my best.

    Like, careless errors- You could see the error when it was pointed out. You knew better than to make that error, so that error should not have been present in your work. That makes sense. How many times did you check my work? You finished early, so you had plenty of time to find that error. Why didn't you? Did you check your work carefully? Really, really carefully? Well, you must not have, if that error was present. So you did need to try harder.

    Or late work- you knew when the assignment was due. It's not a hard assignment. So why was it late? Well, you know you waited until after dinner to get started on it. You had two hours after school got out to start your homework. You could have done it then. Or you could have woken up earlier and finished it before school. What about the weekend? Why didn't you finish your chores faster so you could start this Saturday?

    I had conversations like that with teachers and my dad all the time. And every time, they were arguably right. If I had checked my work one more time instead of playing with my pencils the last five minutes of the period, I might have found that mistake. If I had started my homework Saturday, I might have been able to finish that worksheet.

    And that's why now, I've got such a fucked up idea of what "trying your best" means. If I'm not basically killing myself with overwork, I'm not trying my best because trying your best is working as absolutely hard as you can, and you're clearly not working as absolutely hard as you can if you slept for nine hours, took a long shower, spent an hour on lunch, and gave yourself a 20 minute break for something other than personal hygiene reasons.

    (I am working on not being like this, but I'm not totally there yet. I understand that it's not healthy or worth it to work this hard, and have since developed the ability to avoid the trap of working that hard while still being able to put in *some* effort. But I haven't yet managed to shake the belief that I *should* be working that hard, or doing more with my time.)

    Creagan on
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    Captain MarcusCaptain Marcus now arrives the hour of actionRegistered User regular
    Cambiata wrote: »
    I recall reading about a study that showed that telling students, "I'm proud of you for working so hard on that" is far more motivating than, "you're so smart" or "you're so talented." That the acknowledgement of their hard work makes them want to work harder. I can only imagine how much the reverse of "you're not working hard enough", when you really are trying your best, would de-motivate someone.
    Not to mention that the latter two tend make the kid think that their success is due to special snowflake status ("he's just naturally gifted" etc) instead of hard work, and boy oh boy does that mindset come crashing down after high school.

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    credeikicredeiki Registered User regular
    edited June 2015
    My advice:
    --Keep reading all of the academic literature about math pedagogy. I have a friend in a master's program for physics pedagogy and he learned a lot from papers about how to teach women physics/math (all I recall is that groupwork can be helpful, as well as sneaky techniques to try to attenuate stereotype threat).

    --Be aware that these pedagogical techniques work on average and not for everyone.

    --In some classroom environments boys can speak up more than girls. Deliberately combat this by cold-calling or trying to call on people proportionately to the gender balance in your class.

    --Similarly, girls might be afraid to ask questions. Not sure how to make it easier/friendlier to ask questions but I'm sure you can.

    --Be aware that by high school many girls have already decided they are done with math (many boys too) and you may have to fight an uphill battle. And it might not be for any sexist reason, but because math pedagogy can go super-wrong.

    --Your existing awareness/desire for justice already puts you in a good spot.


    My background/anecdotal:
    I'm a woman with an undergrad physics major and a PhD in biophysics. I went to public school and a public science and tech highschool. My father has a PhD in statistics and my mother hates math and is more verbally-oriented. My younger sister is also very quantitative and was a CS major in college (and she loves/is totally brilliant at math, whereas I'm good at it but just see it as a tool to get at more interesting science questions).

    It was helpful to me to have parents and teachers who from an early age told me I was really smart and that they expected great things of me.
    Statistically this may not be a good approach (as studies have shown, as people in the thread have said, that complimenting children for hard work is more effective), but it worked for me--after all, one thing that can help defeat stereotype threat and impostor syndrome and all that is an enormous ego :P .

    The last good (engaging, interesting) math teacher I had was in 7th grade. High school through college math was just me reading under my desk cause it was boring and poorly presented and I could just learn it by doing the homework/absorbing it while I was reading. But I still managed to become a quantitative person so it was ok!

    Gender never came into it, perhaps because I have always presented in a very unfeminine way (and as such was immune to some cultural stereotypes about what girls should and should not be good at, because I was rejecting 'girliness'?). When I say girls might be afraid to ask questions/raise their hands, I'm sort of talking about hypothetical girls cause I've always been a know-it-all asshole who tries to answer every question/challenge the teacher/show off how smart I am/etc (the worst!). Once I had gotten to college I already knew I was quantitatively apt and was ok with being the only girl in my major, and felt drawn to the challenge. (My sister also went through a rejecting girliness phase, although she's done with it now, and I think she was pretty much silent in class, just super-good at the work).

    Whenever my physics educator friend tells me about how groupwork helps girls learn physics it makes me cringe, because I do well in a traditional lecture setting, and then figuring out problems on my own (with perhaps an informal problem set group afterwards for the stuff I haven't gotten yet). But then again, I am an outlier--but then again, if you teach hundreds and hundreds of girls over the course of your life, some of them will be outliers too.

    Not really sure what to say--just that sometimes girls/women aren't crushed by working/learning in unfriendly or male-dominated fields, but it may take a particular blend of aptitude and self-confidence that you probably can't really provide as a teacher for a year.

    I'm sorry I can't provide anything more specific with respect to classroom management; if you have specific questions I can answer.

    Specific responses:

    I want to ask exactly what you mean by this. When I was in high school, my best experiences were in classes where students were seated in groups and allowed time to basically work through the homework together. Kids who didn't understand could first ask a classmate to help them, which usually helped the struggling kid to understand and the kid who knew to reinforce that they understood it (if you can teach a thing, you know the thing).

    My inclination is to replicate that kind of thing (though I'd probably rotate the groups on a fairly regular basis) and the stuff I'm reading that wants teachers to build a community among their students seems to reinforce that inclination, so I'm curious to know the kinds of things you mean by "math groups."

    This works for some people and not for others. In high school we had "partner tests" and in theory this meant we collaborated and in practice this meant that I would take the test and my partner would copy my work. I would have been annoyed, resentful, and rebellious had I had to more frequently instruct my classmates. It's not my job to teach them! Perhaps it might be expected that a woman who is good at math is nurturing and wants to teach, but for me, certainly not.

    Not to mention that the latter two tend make the kid think that their success is due to special snowflake status ("he's just naturally gifted" etc) instead of hard work, and boy oh boy does that mindset come crashing down after high school.

    Honestly thinking I am the shit is what allowed me to do well and stay sane during undergrad and through my PhD. If you do not think you are the shit you can get super, super crushed by a quant PhD, because it is grueling and hard and people extra expect you to be bad at it because you have boobs.

    credeiki on
    Steam, LoL: credeiki
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    bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    Cambiata wrote: »
    I recall reading about a study that showed that telling students, "I'm proud of you for working so hard on that" is far more motivating than, "you're so smart" or "you're so talented." That the acknowledgement of their hard work makes them want to work harder. I can only imagine how much the reverse of "you're not working hard enough", when you really are trying your best, would de-motivate someone.

    Yeah saying "You're smart!" reinforces bad habits. So if you have a student that doesn't study or hardly focuses on homework and gets good grades, when the time comes for them to actually study and focus, it's much more difficult. You see this a lot in college students. Students who were ahead of the curve in high school and grade school often find themselves barely ahead or slightly behind the curve in college because the course work requires more of them.

    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
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    minirhyderminirhyder BerlinRegistered User regular
    In my freshman year of college, I had to take this "mandatory" 1 credit course that helped first semester freshmen pick classes for the next semester, declare majors, etc.

    So when I was picking classes for my next semester, the class's teacher, who was a female adviser or something asked me what my major was. When I said it was applied math and statistics she then said "Are you sure? You don't look like a math major."

    Got my fucking degree and I now work in data, and I hope she choked in a huge dick at some point in her life.

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    bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    minirhyder wrote: »
    When I said it was applied math and statistics she then said "Are you sure? You don't look like a math major."

    You forgot your pocket protector that day, didn't you?

    ... I don't even know why you would ask a student a question like that.

    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
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    EncEnc A Fool with Compassion Pronouns: He, Him, HisRegistered User regular
    As an advisor, that's such a redcard thing to say I cant even

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