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Bloggy young nerd women

September 10, 2015

Today I want to share with you all two recent blog posts from nerdy young women. And who doesn’t love nerdy young women!?

The first is by Michelle G, an M.I.T. student, class of 2018, who is majoring in “14,” which is M.I.T. code for economics. She wrote a blogpost called Picture yourself as a stereotypical male, about the question of intelligence, gender, and stereotype threat. I thought I knew all about that stuff but I learned quite a bit from her post. p.s. Larry Summers, I hope you read this.

The second is by Meena Boppana, a Harvard CS major/math minor who has guest blogged here on mathbabe before. This post is called The Making of A Girl Mathlete, and it describes her experience winning math competitions, often as the only girl. Even though I personally think math contests kind of suck, I appreciate how much Meena got out of them.

Speaking of the Harvard math department, I’ll be there next Monday, on a panel with Moon Duchin talking about gender inclusivity in mathematics. It’s the first of a series. Here’s the Facebook page of the event.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. September 10, 2015 at 7:19 am

    Great! American Econometrics needs female nerds that are good with words. Saltwater and Sweetwater!


  2. September 10, 2015 at 8:34 am

    Reblogged this on Saving school math and commented:
    Read the linked post from Michelle G. ” Picture yourself as a stereotypical male, about the question of intelligence, gender, and stereotype threat.”
    The psychological investigations described were a real eye-opener to me. It is particularly relevant to MATH


  3. September 10, 2015 at 1:13 pm

    The notion of “stereotype threat” is interesting and worth discussing, but, for the sake of accuracy, it has to be pointed out that efforts to replicate studies that showed a strong effect seem to have failed, or yielded negative results. (I became aware of this only very recently.) See https://replicationindex.wordpress.com/2015/01/06/why-are-stereotype-threat-effects-on-womens-math-performance-difficult-to-replicate


  4. September 10, 2015 at 3:40 pm

    These are interesting/fun reads in their own right so I don’t want to detract from them too much. BUT the studies referenced, involve the sort of “social/cognitive science” of which I’m very skeptical… the variables involved are enormous, and difficult to define, let alone control for. It’s not clear how the samples were drawn, except they are all college students… right away a problem for making generalizations to the wider populace, especially from the very narrow tests done.
    At a minimum the studies need to be replicated and probably also have independent statistical analysis of the data performed as well. Lacking that, it’s hard to draw firm conclusions, but in the rare cases that social science is done well, it’s conclusions can usually only be safely applied to narrow circumstances (…in fact, often so narrow that there is little value in the study!).


  5. September 10, 2015 at 6:30 pm

    I’ve had the pleasure of debating the Course 14’s blog in another forum. As a proud parent of an MIT grad, the course number, such as 14, is always preceded by the word Course. As Michelle G. writes in her blog: “learning it as a Course 14,”


  6. amy
    September 11, 2015 at 12:11 pm

    Cathy, math contests aren’t popular around here either. Showed the jr hi girl the local MATHCOUNTS board and she said, “Oh. They have trophies. Yay.” She likes math, but nothing about this looked like fun to her — the last thing she wants to do is go sit in a room where a bunch of boys, nerdy or otherwise, are all over each other competing for…nothing, as far as she’s concerned. The “what’s it for” theme is one I’ve heard elsewhere, too — I was working on a project with a former Pandé lab member, and he was talking about how crazy people used to get over the points they’d rack up with Folding@home. His student was there, and her face was basically the same face my daughter made — she asked, “What did you do with the points?” and was pretty unimpressed when the answer was “try to have the most of them.”

    I’ve had some good conversations with Mike, who’s Olympiad all the way, about what competition can do for a kid, and I respect his experience. But I’m guessing it’s not a great way to interest most girls and young women. If I were designing curriculum, I’d probably try epidemiological stats and then move on to other real-life issues, and identify the girls who just like thinking about math because math, and run something for them on a club basis. Possibly with an overtly social component. I’ve been telling Mike and others in my fb posts about my daughter’s decision to quit cross-country just a few days in because the coach is one of these mad trophy grubbers who shouts the runners along and wants to beat the weakness out of them. She went back to Girls on the Run (this time as a coach) which has a cooperative and supportive spirit and does a lot of teaching about how to take care of yourself, be a good friend, know how you feel, respect yourself, etc.


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