Although an increasing number of women are studying science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) related subjects, they are still underrepresented due to the lack of opportunities and support. According to the National Science Foundation, in 2014 women representation in math and statistics remained below 30 percent at the doctoral level. To do their part in bridging the gender gap in mathematics, juniors Joy Shi, Emmy Song, Stephanie Wang, Laura Yao, Ashley Ye and their team of student volunteers organized InteGIRLS, a math competition for girls in the DC area that took place on May 18.
Shi, who has been participating in math competitions from an early age including the Assessing Math Concepts (AMC), Math Counts and the Carnegie Mellon Informatics and Mathematics Competition (CMIMC) noticed the lack of female participants, and decided she was going to work to get more girls into math. “I had this dream ever since middle school when I noticed the startling disparity between the number of girls and boys at the math competitions I attended, which is why I wanted to start an organization that would get more girls into math,” Shi said.
In order to achieve their goal, Shi and her team contacted Advantage Testing Foundation, which hosts Math Prize for Girls at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), a competition that promotes gender equality through its test of mathematical capability. InteGIRLS also partnered up with Montgomery College and their Mathematics Department Chair, Benjamin Nicholson, who provided them the entire third floor west wing of the science center at Montgomery College, which consisted of a 150-person lecture hall and six 32-person classrooms. “It was fun spending the day with energetic students (both running and competing) who want to advance women in the mathematical sciences, I’m proud Montgomery College was able to play a small role,” Nicholson said.
InteGIRLS not only promoted female participation in math, but the team-based competition greatly encouraged problem-solving thinking skills, and allowed girls to interact with others who shared their passion for STEM. With 160 registered participants and 130 attendees from all over the DC area, InteGIRLS successfully administered its team round, in which the students were given 45 minutes to solve 10 questions and an individual round that students were given 30 minutes to complete. The competition questions related to algebra, number theory, geometry and combinatorics subject tests. “I felt the event was extremely organized, and I was especially impressed by the competition itself, I’m still thinking about the solution to one of them I read and it’s days later,” Nicholson said.
The all-girl math competition was attended by Maryland district representatives Lily Qi and Kathleen Dumais, who is also a Maryland house majority leader, as well as the county executive, Marc Elrich. Natalie Fischer, an admissions counselor at The Johns Hopkins University and mathematics professor Agnes Conaty, as well as various Montgomery College female staff members spoke at the panel InteGIRLS hosted. “It was a great experience seeing so many girls working together looking for a future STEM background,” junior Julie Yang said.