math /Title IX lesson plans

Date: Fri Apr 28 2000 - 11:46:35 EDT

Apropos of the gender equity in math programs announced by Christina
Here's an approach to math through Title IX advocacy (free to copy and
use anywhere):

Title IX work is based on numbers and the kinds of understanding of
human behavior and ethics that can be based on numbers. Democracy is
based on numbers, for example; equity in the schools is based on
o Do you know how much of the world's land is owned by women?
o How many of the school district superintendencies in the United
             are filled by women?
o How many of the teachers at the elementary, high school, and
o How does the salary of a school superintendent compare to that
of a
             teacher's aide?
o Do you know how many years of school a woman must have to earn
as much
             as a man with a high school degree?
o How many women there are in the United States, as a percentage
of the
o How many women are now majoring in computer science?
o What is the most frequent cause of hospitalization for women in
             United States?

We want to spread the idea that it is possible to count one's way to an
assessment of equity in various situations. For example, it is possible
to find out whether classes are more or less equally boys/girls; this
is important for the sense with which classes in a school recapitulate
the culture as a whole. And it can be very important for the experience
girls have of being fairly treated or being overwhelmed in a class.
Students, teachers, parents, and anyone in the community can use
counting skills to find out
o if GATE classes and special ed are more or less equal,
o whether the budgets for athletic clubs, etc. are equal,
o how many males/females are represented in classroom materials,
o how many authors used in classes are male/female,
o how many boys/girls are given positions of leadership and
o how many boys/girls use what percentages of materials,
             teacher time, etc.
And one can do time surveys about what kinds of interactions are most
frequent, over time spaces such as years, and months, and decades, and
weeks, and days, and hours, and minutes, and these figures can show what
is and is not important to schools.
And it is possible to find out
o how much money women don't get for doing housework and child
o and even when they get paid for work, how much less they get,
o and how money correlates to degrees earned, and grades earned
             internships practiced, and grants received, and the people
in the
             right places one knows.

And then it is possible to do something about these numbers: you can use
them in voting, presenting numbers to the media, to the school board, to
the councils, to the commissions that decide more numbers--budgets and
grants and allotments; one can present them to the civics groups and
student councils, to show what needs to change, and how.

And you can use numbers on picket signs, and make films about them, and
use them in speeches, and create dramas and dances and musicals about
these numbers and situations
and write songs about them and poems about them, and do stunning art
about them and get all this creative action into displays and public

And one can make pie charts and bar graphs, and tables, and histograms
and one can use all these forms of communication to put numbers about
equity out on computers over the Internet, and e-mail people and
organizations, and use them in organizing and showing people that indeed
gender equity in the schools and in the nation and in the world has a
very long way to go. It is important to note, and here in Sonoma County
we have some very good examples of how persuasive opponents of gender
equity can be when they get hold of a few statistics out of context and
no one knows how to refute them. For example, a major attack on girls'
rights in schools is based on the true statistic that women are
graduating in equal numbers to men from college in the United States in
certain fields. We need students who will ask the questions that lead
to different conclusions: are women and men paid equally for these
equal degrees? (No.) Are these degrees equal channels of opportunity to
good jobs? (No.) Has affirmative action leveled the playing field for
women? Do men have affirmative action?

For example, when I go into the schools I discover that the kids have
very little idea about
o how many women there are in the world, in percentages of the
             population, and how many are born, and how many survive
o and how many get AIDS and how many get it from whom, and in what
             manner of transmission,
o and how many are aborted and killed and raped and elected to
             and at what level of office they are elected,
o and how many women there are in the Senate, and in the House of
o They have very little idea about how many people it takes to
make a
             majority and how many people constitute our largest minorities
and why
             that is important for allocations of money in this society
o and why the American Association of Sociology voted to define
women as
             a minority .
For example, how would you handle this question now being
offered to Sociology 101 students in a major textbook: There are l2
male white members of a corporate board of directors; to be responsive
to current drives for cultural diversity, they have voted to add one
woman, a black and a Latino, so that there will be l5 directors. How
far have they advanced toward

I became interested in the numbers when I was trying to assess the level
of gender equity in the school my daughter went to. I found out that
girls were allotted hopscotch areas on the edge of the playground the
center of which was dominated by basketball that the boys dominated. I
found out that there were 3 girls in the GATE program, compared to 18
boys--in 1993. When I asked the district to count gender in the GATE
classes as a whole, they said it was equal--but that they counted
androgynous names as girls. I found out that in first grade six authors
were taught; the seventh was a woman with an androgynous name, Baird. I
sat down to do a textbook survey and discovered that girls were
routinely portrayed as smaller, often through the device of having a big
brother, little sister representation; girls tended to be more passive,
looking at boys doing something; I discovered that the Explorabook,
which was then touted as the science book for kids, showed l37 males,
and 33 females. When we looked at the Exploratorium printed program,
there were 3 women mentioned or shown, and 54 men; when I wrote a letter
to the Exploratorium, the director wrote back saying it was an accident
and sent me a handful of free passes. Nothing changed in the programs.
      I thought that these things had been handled by the women's
movement; I didn't realize that a whole new generation was growing up
for whom things were much the same as usual. It is crucial that the
women of this world learn to count. Women own only 1 percent of the
world's land. People have said blithely to me, Oh, your daughter is
athletic, she'll get into college easy on one of the women's
scholarships, they're getting more than the men these days. No, they're
not--women get one-third of the scholarships; and for ethnic minorities
the situation is worse; anyone who persuades a child of color to scant
academic subjects while paying attention to athletics is routing that
child into failure--there is one in a million chance of getting into the
major leagues, for boys; and next to zilch for women.

There is a whole new attack on Title IX going on now, based on numbers;
the old boys of the Senate are leading a move to remove football from
the sports covered by Title IX; the argument is that football brings in
money. So it does, but it takes out even more money. There are often
50 players on a football team, most of whom never get any playing time;
the teams offered to women to make up the balance often carry no extras,
11 for a soccer team isn't enough to play, because the players get run
ragged. We win a round; they win a round. We show that women are not
equally served; they counter and say they cannot find enough numbers of
women who are interested; we counter and show that if you provide an
equal playing field in kindergarten, and thereafter, by the time you get
to college you have plenty of candidates for a team.

 It's the numbers game, and it is absolutely crucial for girls to learn
how to handle math, to achieve gender equity. So please give us a call
and let's get together to work out some curriculum that will address
these issues with materials that are of crucial importance to the girls.

Linda Purrington
Title IX Advocates

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