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Why Only Foreign-born, Asian American or Home-schooled Girls Excel In Math

By: Krystle Crossman

Women I the field of mathematics have come a long way. It used to be extremely hard for a woman to be recognized for her significant contributions to the math field. LA Times writer Franics Su explores the history of female mathematicians and theories on why they are not recognized as they should be.

One woman, Sophie Germain, had to use a male pseudonym just to get her work recognized. She had no formal schooling but her contributions to number theory were astounding. This was back in the late 18th century. In the 19th century a mathematician from Russia named Sonia Kovalevsky was not able to enroll in mathematics courses as she was a woman. She was only allowed to audit classes. Eventually she found a mentor who believed in her ability and helped her to get her doctorate degree.

Early on in the 20th century there was a woman named Emily Noether who wanted to teach at the German University that she was close to but they would not allow it. She ended up lecturing on her own and went unpaid. Today we have Maryam Mirzakhani who has made history by becoming the first woman ever to win the Fields Medal which in the math world is akin to the Nobel Prize. While this accomplishment is an amazing one it still brings to light the fact that women do not get recognized nearly as much as they should when it comes to work in mathematics and science as well. The Nobel Prize has been handed out every year for over a century for physics and chemistry and only six have gone to women.

There are many theories as to why woman are not respected enough in mathematics and one of them is that women biologically are not wired to be able to do in-depth and complicated math. There are many women who have proved this theory wrong as we are seeing more and more women at the top of the list for complicated math work. One of the most interesting points however is that almost all of the top performers in the USA Math Olympiad were not born in the US, were home-schooled, or were Asian American. It is theorized that this is because in Asian cultures math is a very important focus during schooling. It is very important for those who are home-schooled as well.

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