Archive for Friday, March 13, 1992


March 13, 1992


— Changing how educators teach math and science will mean that more girls will excel in those subjects, according to the dean of faculty at Westover Girls School in Middlebury, Conn.

Ann Pollina presented a daylong workshop Thursday at the Northeast Kansas Education Service Center in Lecompton. She discussed how teachers and administrators can eliminate the disparity between boys' and girls' attitudes, achievements and self-esteem in the fields of math and science.

More than 20 teachers and principals from about 18 schools participated.

"The big message is we've tried to engage girls in math and science for a long time by trying to make them do things like boys," she said during an interview after the workshop. "We've been saying there's not enough girls in math and science, so what's wrong with them? Instead of asking what's wrong with the girls, we're starting to ask what's wrong with the way we're teaching."

POLLINA helped organize a symposium sponsored by the National Coalition of Girls' Schools last summer at Wellesley College, in Wellesley, Mass., where 82 educators from across the country met to discuss the needs and learning styles of young women. During Thursday's workshop, she shared some of the salient points that surfaced during the conference.

"The most insidious thing is that people feel in their hearts that we're doing the right thing, so they don't feel a need to change," she said. "We don't realize the subtle messages we send to girls."

Among the observations discussed during the Wellesley symposium are that teachers give girls less encouragement than boys; ask girls less difficult questions; and interrupt girls more often.

BOYS' success typically is attributed to talent; girls' success commonly is attributed to luck or hard work. Boys are expected to be assertive; girls, silent.

Pollina said the lecture-listen-imitate method of teaching is the least effective, and yet the most prevalent. During her workshop, she provided educators with alternatives for teaching math and science to better attract the interest of girls.

She suggested, for example, that teachers work to find connections between math and science and real life experiences.

"Validate that it's legitimate for girls to use their own experiences to solve problems," she said.

Teachers at the workshop practiced this suggestion by drawing pictures of pizzas to solve fraction problems.

LINDA Ware, director of the education center's math-science consortium, said she arranged the workshop to "get this dialogue going locally. The research is a decade old, but the practices don't follow."

Participants in the workshop seemed to glean helpful information from Pollina's presentation, said Ware. "It was very stimulating," she said. "It's about time to hear these things."

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