Prior Results

The goal of the NSF-funded Closing the Gap: Math Clubs for Girls Project (HRD 95-53337 11/95-5/97) run by Jan Mokros (PI), Mary Berle-Carman and Lisa Yaffee (Co-Directors) was to develop, in collaboration with teachers, several models of school-based math clubs for girls which can be replicated in elementary schools across the country. The clubs have increased girls' interest and enthusiasm for math, helped teachers improve the climate of their co-ed mathematics classrooms, and increased community involvement in mathematics education. Working with the Berkshire Hills Regional School District (BHRSD), Boston Public Schools, and Lexington Public Schools, we developed and piloted several highly successful school-based models including:

In each school, math clubs served as a framework for teachers to learn about the gender dynamics in their math classrooms. Additionally, they used clubs as a place to experiment with reform mathematics activities. Once teachers recognized and reflected on the gender issues in their classrooms, the club framework became a way to think about how to improve the co-ed classroom environment. At each site teachers also made changes in their regular classroom math instruction after experiencing their students' responses to reform math activities.

Impact on Teachers and Districts

As the grant period is coming to a close all participating teachers (14) report they will continue the work within their communities. The administration of one district has committed funding for participating teachers to serve as leaders within the district to promote both reform mathematics and equity (Berkshire Hills Regional). At the second site (Boston) teachers are negotiating leadership roles to support their schools in addressing math reform and gender equity. An active gender equity/mathematics parent group is committed to supporting the infusion of the model across elementary schools at the third site (Lexington).

In their exit interviews teachers reported that leading single gender math clubs has:

Example of Change: Berkshire Hills Regional School District

The implementation and expansion of math clubs at the Stockbridge Plain School in Stockbridge, MA led the Berkshire Hills School District to examine broadly both gender bias in classrooms and reformed mathematics.

Specific actions or changes:

Impact on Students

Girls and boys participating in single gender math clubs for sixteen weeks scored significantly higher on attitude surveys measuring confidence in mathematics than students at the same grade level in the same schools not participating in math clubs. Out of a possible score of 22, students participating in math clubs scored 19.1 on average, while students not in math clubs scored 16.0 (t = 3.19, p = .0023). Testing club participants pre and post (before and after 16 weeks of one hour club meetings per week), we discovered boys' scores moved in a positive direction overall after sixteen weeks, while the mean difference between girls' pre and post test scores was significant (t=2.47, p=.0069.)

Participating students at the three sites communicated similar messages about math clubs. Girls wrote in evaluations that clubs afforded them freedom from the put-downs they had come to expect from boys if they participated in discussion in the co-ed classroom; more and better opportunities to participate in class; a safe place to test untried ideas; and a fun social environment. Over 97% of participating girls recommended math club to girls from other schools. Ninety-five percent of boys recommended math club to boys from other schools; their reasons were the opportunity to be with friends, and the freedom to ask questions they wouldn't feel free to ask in the co-ed environment such as "Are girls more mature than boys?" and "Is it true that boys are better at math than girls?"

Typical written comments from girls were:


The Closing the Gap Project math club models have generated a great deal of interest in a short time at both local and national levels. Audiences are intrigued with using single-gender experiences in the service of improving co-ed classrooms. They want to know how students and community members have responded and how we've addressed Title IX issues. The fact that we work with boys, parents, and community members in addition to girls in order to address gender bias in classrooms is especially salient.

last modified July 1997
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