[Guest Blog Post] Give Girls The Gift of Math And They'll Change The World
I often hear frustration from students that “Math just isn’t for me!” This exclamation is even more troublesome when it comes from middle school girls, because young girls start off strong in math and science but lose interest and confidence as they get older. The Nation’s Report Card revealed in October 2015 that overall U.S. math scores declined for the first time in 25 years, signaling a need for change within the learning process.
With the demand for STEM-related jobs expected to grow by 17 percent by 2018, there is a clearly defined void in the workforce, of which aspiring females should take advantage. We must work together to guarantee that girls have the opportunities to engage and excel in math during their schooling, in order to ensure a thriving future workforce.
In order to correct the glaring inequalities that exist in STEM-related jobs, we must first identify inequalities that exist within our education system. One way to ensure greater equity is to implement innovative and diverse technology in the classroom. When the future of our workforce depends on advanced math and logic skills, girls often have a disadvantage that could lead to a lifelong struggle and frustration with math.
Blended learning offers a solution for students who believe that math isn’t for them. Through personalized learning, all students can master concepts at their own pace. The practice of blended learning includes integrating digital content to complement face-to-face instruction in the classroom. Teachers, oftentimes a student’s single mentor outside of the home, also receive real-time analytics to determine how best to spend face-to-face instruction time, tailored to the needs of the individual student. This dramatically shifts the power from the teacher as the sole artisan of information, to an activator role. As a learning activator, the teacher now guides students throughout their individual math journeys, providing an experience that inspires students to seek the struggle that leads to learning, and to feel the courage and the confidence that comes from genuine understanding. Teachers can now be more effective at targeting student weakness and proactive about motivating low-performing learners to strive for mastery.
The solutions are out there. We must continue to encourage our girls to pursue STEM-related activities both in the classroom and in their free time. Many girls in elementary school love math and excel—that is until middle school, when they typically lose interest and fall behind. Other countries nurture girls who show promise in the development of math skills, as this math mastery is highly valued for success later in life. However, in the U.S., such talent is often ignored or overlooked. Research has shown that gender bias is prevalent in STEM fields, while other data shows that women’s progress in STEM jobs has stalled. We need to create an environment where math skills are valued in order to cultivate math empowerment across both genders. Blended learning provides a way to keep individuals motivated in their learning. There’s no “one size fits all” method for blended learning. It takes some experimenting to strike the proper balance between teacher instruction and student learning. But by embracing new technologies, teachers can unlock their students’ true learning potential.
My passion for this subject runs deep. It is just one of the reasons why I am excited to be CEO of a company that is part of a solution for supporting more girls in STEM. DreamBox Learning provides a myriad of dynamic lesson plans tailored to drive student achievement. Additionally, DreamBox Learning equips teachers with data that pinpoints students’ needs for additional instruction.
As learning guardians, we must foster and implement a course-correcting system that works to counter current declining math trends. We must all work together to ensure that our children have ample opportunities to grow and develop into successful professionals. Let’s encourage girls early—and often—to step into STEM. It’s good for them, their career potential, and our collective future.