Mathematics: The Root of the Problem

The North Shore Mathletes from the movie Mean Girls.

Larry Summers (2012)

     In January of 2005, Harvard President and former Secretary of Treasury Larry Summers discussed the lack of women in academic science at an economic conference. Summers hypothesized that the disparity could be explained by 3 factors: (1) women were unwilling to make the sacrifices needed to be successful in academic science, (2) less women have an aptitude for academic science than men, and (3) women are not identified due to discrimination and/or socialization. These comments were controversial at best, despite Summers claiming that he was simply trying to be “positive”, rather than “normative”. Although the speech has been known to be sexist, there is a silver lining in the dark cloud that is institutionalized discrimination. Since 2005, much research has been done that further examines Summers’ three hypotheses, several that will be cited in this section of the webpage. Further, this section aims to discuss the validity of the motivational, biological, and societal arguments by examining the gender difference in math performance of children and adults. We hope that by examining the “M” in STEM, we will be able to further identify the root of the problem.

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