How To Encourage Girls In Math And Science

A Leave No Girl Behind Discussion: Education and empowerment in the classroom


A contribution to Leave No Girl Behind by Judy Britz

As a Maths teacher, I believe it is vitally important to empower girls by believing in their own ability to do Maths. So often a parent (mother!) will tell me “I was no good at Maths at school, so I don’t expect my daughter to be either!” Please moms, this is defeatist language and is designed to ensure that our girl children will never reach their mathematical potential. We must change female attitudes to the subject – girls tend to be wonderfully intuitive and methodical workers – great attributes, amongst others, for budding mathematicians.

In my teaching career, it has often struck me how very hard girls are on themselves by judging themselves against perfection, and obviously falling short. I have seen them do this in the area of academics, sport, public speaking, physical appearance and popularity. So often, I have observed a pupil getting a Maths test back, only to agonise about the 20% of marks she lost, rather than the 80% she obtained.

It is my impression that girls are also very hard on each other, using the same impossible standards as a yardstick. We need to build one another up in order to strengthen each other to face the challenges of living. Let’s stand alongside each other. Is there someone who could use your encouragement today?

In recent years, however, I have become more aware of the emerging strength of our young women of Africa. They set their own goals and don’t need to rely on a male to help them get there. Great opportunities lie ahead for these young women – opportunities just waiting for someone to reach out and embrace them!

Judy Britz has been a teacher at St Dominic’s Academy Newcastle, South Africa, for 30 years, educating and opening young minds to the wonder of Math (her great love) and English. She spent 5 of those years as principal.

Steps teachers can take to encourage girls in the Maths and Science fields:

  1. Read current articles to your students about girls and women who have made breakthroughs in the field.
  2. Have your students watch video interviews with women who have achieved success in these fields or have been pioneers in traditionally male professions.
  3. Invite women in the field to talk to your students and allow your students to ask them questions.
  4. Make your classroom a safe space for your students so that they feel comfortable to discuss their perceived inadequacies with you.
  5. Create a stress-free atmosphere in your classroom so that students feel comfortable enough to venture out of their comfort zones and explore new academic territory!