Perhaps such a headline would send more young students running to sign up for math classes (although it might also have teachers fleeing)? Despite our oft professed condescension towards Paris Hilton, BoardBuzz was intrigued by this story on MSNBC about a recent study that ties the lack of students entering the math profession to the “geeky” social stigma associated with being a mathmetician.
Nearly all participants, both math-friendly students and those who steer clear of equations, think of a mathematician as a white male with white hair, who is obsessed with the number-laden subject to the exclusion of any social life. For instance, participants labeled Albert Einstein and John Nash (portrayed in the movie “A Beautiful Mind”) as lacking social skills and as weird or not normal.
Because of the “geek” status associated with mathematics, many who excel at math in their early years decide to pursue other fields in higher education and as a profession. And females are considerably less likely to describe themselves as excelling in math.
For the few brave souls that pursue careers in mathematics, the study found that they view the characteristics others describe as “geeky” as assets. An obsession with numbers is not crazy–it’s a skill. And being unconcerned with a social life shows devotion. Some also choose to embrace their “geekiness,” though also pointing out that underneath the geek stereotype, they are normal individuals.
So, how can we as educators help to change the stereotype associated with math and science? Maybe one day we will see more young boys and girls dreaming of becoming–not a rock star–but a math star (whether Paris makes that movie or not)!