Women and Mathematics: A Working Voice?
Burrous, Carrie Emma
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Over the course of the past year, since the beginning of spring quarter 1989, I have been experiencing a gradual, but continuous, self-awakening as a human being, as a woman and as a student. The journey began in Women's Studies Seminar with the question: How do you define voice? From there, two crucial elements of my life, being a woman and being a college mathematics major, and the relationship between them began to emerge as the key to my unlocking a deeper self-awareness and overall understanding about the effects of the environment surrounding me. As in trying to conceptualize water, it is necessary to understand hydrogen and oxygen as separate elements and as one, united element. Similarly, in becoming more self-aware, I needed to examine and understand being a woman and being a mathematics student as separate concepts, and as one united concept. Futhermore, realizing the effects of various conditions upon hydrogen and oxygen results in an understanding of water changing from a liquid into a gas or a solid as steam or ice. Similarly, it is critical to realize how the environment and society can deeply effect the way women approach, learn and use mathematics. This is not to imply that men are not also affected. However, my interests and study are directed towards gaining an understanding of the woman's position. I was granted an intern position at the University of California at Davis with a branch of its education department-- University-School Programs. A particular program, The Northern California Math Project, 1s involved in piloting a new, college preparatory math curriculum designed to improve the traditional approach toward teaching and learning college preparatory mathematics in high school. For my Senior Individualized Project, I filmed classrooms where the program was being implemented in order to observe the effects of a non-traditional approach. To illuminate the complete picture of the woman's position numerous elements need to be considered. Hopefully, this may be accomplished by first considering the "biological argument" of intellectual differences between the sexes. A close look at societal influences upon women and mathematics will follow. A description of the program about which my Senior Individualized Project revolved will shed light upon how to move forward from here and now. Finally, I will share selected journal entries recorded during my winter quarter spent at the University of California at Davis for whatever help they may provide.