Rediscovering WWII's female "computers"
. While researching a documentary in Philadelphia, filmmaker LeAnn Erickson came across two women with a story she'd never heard before: thousands of women with advanced mathematical skills employed as "computers", working day and night during WWII to supply soldiers in the field with precise ballistics algorithms. Some of those women also went on to program ENIAC
, the first general-purpose computer (previously
). Erickson turned their stories into Top Secret Rosies
, a documentary released to theaters last year and to DVD this month. One of those programmers, Betty Jean Jennings Bartik, spoke at length
to the Computing History Museum in 2008. [youtube, 1:07:19] [via
Early elementary school teachers in the United States are almost exclusively female (>90%), and we provide evidence that these female teachers’ anxieties relate to girls’ math achievement via girls’ beliefs about who is good at math.
A study (abstract
and full-text [pdf]
) by the University of Chicago Department of Psychology and Committee on Education found a link between math anxiety in elementary school teachers and their female students' math abilities. [more inside]
No gender differences found in math performance.
None. Not on average
, at least in countries where the sexes are treated equally. And no, not at the highest, outlier levels of mathematical ability, either, despite what some believe.
And not in number of undergrad math degrees earned. And not in terms of complex problem solving ability. Just plain not.
Hypothesis as thought-crime
...Now, however, a new brouhaha has erupted [at Harvard]and it seems impossible that Summers [the president]will emerge from this one without serious erosion of his moral authority. The trigger was a statement he made at a conference, suggesting that the reason there are more men than women in the mathematical sciences at top-flight institutions has to do with a small statistical difference in inate ability, which becomes a pretty large disparity when one looks at the 'high end' of the respective distribution curves...
The fatal words did not set forth his main theme, but merely constituted a brief aside, thoroughly hedged and qualified. Nonetheless, they touched off a firestorm of indignation, the most striking aspect of which was the intemperate response of a number of feminist scientists, who offered no counter-arguments, but simply declared the whole idea misogynistic and therefore forbidden intellectual territory.
With numerous biographies and photographs, this website indexes the many contributions that women have made to the field of mathematics. From Pythagoras' wife Theano
and martyr Hypatia
, also notable are the first female computer programmer
and the first female Ph.D. recipient