Essay on Women Mathematicians: Why So Few?

Essay on Women Mathematicians: Why So Few?

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Women Mathematicians: Why So Few?

The great field of mathematics stretches back in history some 8 millennia to the age of primitive man, who learned to count to ten on his fingers. This led to the development of the decimal scale, the numeric scale of base ten (Hooper 4). Mathematics has grown greatly since those primitive times, in the present day there are literally thousands of laws, theorems, and equations which govern the use of ten simple symbols representing the ten base numbers. The field of mathematics is ever changing, and therefor, there is a great demand for mathematicians to keep improving our skills in utilizing the numeric system. Many great people, both past and present, have made great contributions to the field. Among the most famous are Archimedes, Euclid, Ptolemy, and Pythagoras, all of which are men. This seems to be a common trend in mathematics, for almost all classical mathematicians were male.

The twentieth century has been a century of change for women and their rights. They have been successful in gaining the right to vote, equal opportunity in the workplace, and many other freedoms. So why then is the field of mathematics still so sexually separated? Can it be that women just aren’t as well endowed in the area of mathematical thinking so that they just can’t compare to the male mathematical geniuses? This theory has been proven totally false on many occasions. A study by Jane M. Armstrong in 1978 showed that 13-year-old females actually performed slightly better than males on tests of mathematical computation, spatial visualization, and performance in algebra (Chipman 8). An analysis by Project TALENT in 1960 showed that males in 9th grade are slightly more mathematically inclined, but the stand...

... middle of paper ...


Friend’s Support and Encouragement

Undergraduate Research Experience

Job Experience

Table 2: How Often do You Question Your Ability to Succeed in Mathematics?

% for Females
% for Males

Always or Often


Rarely or Never


Works Cited

Chipman, Susan F. Women and Mathematics: Balancing the Equation. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers, Hillsdale, NJ 1985.

Hooper, Alfred. Makers of Mathematics. Random House, New York, 1948.

Love, Lauren. Dusa McDuff., 10/26/99.

Nolan, Deborah. Women in Mathematics, Scaling the Heights. MAA Notes 46, pp. 1-15, 1997.

Perl, Teri. Math Equals: Biographies of Women Mathematicians. Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Reading, MA, 1978.

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