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Women and STEM subjects: How happy I am that I learned at girls' schools


In STEM professions, women are rare - also because girls often shy away from math at school. Is that different if there are no guys in the classroom? Yes, says math professor Inge Schwank. She herself is the best example.

"During my eleven years at school, I visited three elementary schools and three high schools in four different federal states, my father frequently changed jobs - and that gave us children a literally moving school life." From the beginning of the fourth to the end of the eighth grade I was fortunate enough to be taught at girls' schools.

These years have been my best time at school and they have shaped my career as well. Here I felt well looked after and could be a very good student, without having to justify myself for it. My mathematics teachers were consistently excellent and found it perfectly normal to promote girls in their individual strengths, especially in math. Subjects in which boys - according to popular opinion - per se were better than girls, did not exist.

I still remember silly sayings

What advantages this had for my own attitude, I realized only later. After skipping ninth grade, I went to a mainstream school in the last four years of school. I still remember silly sayings that fell there: It was important to a German teacher to inform us several times during lessons that he would like to teach mathematics and science. Make sure that he is more involved with boys. I was in the mathematical-scientific branch.

When I was seventeen, I finally had my high school diploma in my pocket and was able to leave behind the unloved mainstream school. I wanted to study mathematics - and that was not consistently positive. Even my parents were worried that I would not be happy as a girl with math in my life: 'Did you really think that over well?'

Even today girls seem to counter such reservations. Why does not even half as many women as men study mathematics and science?

The compromise was in my case a teacher training with the subjects of mathematics and physics, later I took for fun of the joy of computer science. At the age of twenty-four, I submitted my PhD in mathematics. I knew that was thanks to my teachers in the girls' schools, who had given me the best possible support beyond all clichés. Without her, I might have opted for other 'more girlish' subjects.

Girls approach maths tasks differently

Today, as a university teacher of mathematics and her didactics, I want to educate future mathematics educators so that they can succeed in promoting girls and boys alike, and that they can understand the potential for subconsciousness that may be unconscious.

In addition, my own research with students has shown that girls often approach mathematical problems differently than boys. Many girls are able to analyze complex static structures relatively well, but imagine bad action-packed dynamic processes, which is often easier for boys.

From the kindergarten we know, for example, that some dice players have bigger problems with converting a rolled number into a number of hops on a game board. So there are cognitive differences, but they do not mean girls are automatically worse at math. One would only have to prepare girls differently for the treatment of mathematical problems, preferably even in elementary school, because here the course is set.

We recommend materials that can be used, for example, to build stairs on which figures bounce around. This helps especially girls who are also the process view, to dig up numbers.

If such approaches are not better taken into account in joint mathematics education, it would be necessary to think again of setting up girls' schools or at least separate lessons. Because I fear: Without rethinking the proportion of women in mathematical and scientific subjects and professions will hardly increase. "

Source: spiegel

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