Challenge, risk taking and independent thinking should lie at the heart of maths teaching for girls, says the head of mathematics at Sherborne Girls, responding to the recent statement by education minister Elizabeth Truss that Britain’s gender stereotyping has created a generation of girls who are nervous about maths.
“Girls need to be in the driving seat directing their own learning,” says Louise Orton, who heads up a team of six mathematicians at the all-girls boarding school in Dorset. “Maths is now the most popular subject at the school for girls over the age of 16, with 51% of students currently studying the subject, and 29% enjoying the challenges of Further Maths, and our team has quickly learnt that an independent approach to study and an emphasis on challenge is a key for motivation and success.
“But girls also need to feel that they are supported and encouraged in their investigation and frequently drop into the maths office to discuss a problem they have been pondering. Building up their confidence helps the girls to fly in an area that is still considered a male-dominated sphere, and has helped us to buck the national trend and change perceptions about girls and maths. The results speak for themselves: 80% A*-A at A level; and 56% at grade 6 or 7 for the maths component at IB.
“The girls study maths not as a means to a future career path but for the love and enjoyment of the subject. Our challenge is to encourage the girls to look outwards and embrace the range of careers in statistics and computing in this ever-changing world of technology, and to ensure they are inspired to consider other employment opportunities with mathematics. Many of our students go on to pursue engineering, medicine, business, economics, science and geography degree courses with a sound mathematical background to support their study.”