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SMC professor examines women in mathematics

Brittany VanSnepson | Friday, November 6, 2009

Saint Mary’s College commemorated women in the mathematic field in the third installment of a three-part lecture series, which took place in Spes Unica Hall.

Mathematics professor Sister Miriam Cooney delivered the third lecture, titled “Issues In Math Education.”

Cooney’s main focus was addressing the social issues in mathematics that involve women, citing how women in the past had to deal with choosing between their marriage or career.
“It’s not like that anymore,” Cooney said. “Now it’s marriage and career.”

Cooney offered research provided by women prominent in the fields of mathematics or science.

Elizabeth Fennema, Jane Martin and Elizabeth Tidball are some of the women she discussed.

Cooney referenced Fennema’s discovery of the internal convictions of students. Women are believed to have a lack of confidence in the mathematical field and need to know where it is useful in their lives. They nurture the idea that women are not as good in math than men and do not practice the mathematical attribution style, in which men attribute their success to talent whereas women do not.

“I was kind of surprised about these issues,” sophomore Taylor Chamberlain said. “I never really thought about it before, but once I started thinking about it and applying it to myself, I realized it’s very much true.”

Another startling issue Cooney addressed was the need for women attending universities or colleges to learn from other women in teaching positions of their chosen field of interest.

“Women should be able to see … other women teaching in their department,” Cooney said.
Cooney suggested students inquiring for more information should go to the math center or read the array of books on the table in the Mathematics’ office.

“It brings about confidence in women, knowing that what you’re working towards is something that is achievable,” Chamberlain said. “The visible evidence definitely helps.”