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September 21, 2009


NSF funds math encouragement program for women

The National Science Foundation has provided a $250,000 grant to Sacramento State to create a pilot math teacher train-the-trainer program designed to encourage women to pursue careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Statistics show that men far outnumber women in these fields.

Principle investigators for the grant are sociology Professor Mridula Udayagiri and Madeleine Fish, director of the University’s MESA Engineering and Computer Science Program. It is funded through NSF’s Research on Gender in Science and Engineering program.

The teach-the-trainer project, which begins in summer 2010, will give math teachers new techniques to create a classroom environment that is friendlier to women and encourages them to stay with math and succeed academically.

“Research shows that women respond to a different classroom than men,” says Udayagiri. “Women prefer a dynamic, cooperative environment that includes group collaboration and teamwork instead of one-on-one competiveness. They also like to see how math concepts apply to the real world.”

The program also teaches what Fish calls “math intervention,” a process that helps teachers quickly and effectively bring students’ math skills up to par.

“Many students have significant gaps in their math backgrounds,” says Fish. “It’s not that they don’t have math skills, but they may have missed out on certain areas, and until those gaps are filled, they can’t use critical thinking to solve problems. This will be almost like a math boot camp.”

Fish said teachers will leave training with the skills to transmit what they have learned to their fellow teachers.

The training program includes independent studies prior to a two-week practicum on campus during summer 2010 and webinars afterwards.

For more information, contact Udayagiri at or Fish at 278-6699 or e-mail


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