Letter: Ideas don't add up

December 1, 2000

John Radford (Letters, THES, November 24) states that mathematical ability is gender-linked, with the implication that we need not worry about under-representation of women in mathematics departments in Ireland.

Where do Radford's figures come from? Is it relevant to base assumptions about women and maths on measurements of the general population? Many who are outstanding at school do not have the ability to do research in mathematics. This ability does not seem to be well correlated, with exceptional facility, with numbers or geometry, for example.

Statements such as Radford's keep our education system biased. Too many believe girls cannot do maths and hold damagingly low expectations.

Finally, how would Radford explain the large variation in the proportion of women in mathematics in different European countries?

Perdita Stevens
Lecturer and EPSRC advanced research fellow,
division of informatics,
University of Edinburgh

Amanda Chetwynd
Senior lecturer Mathematics and statistics department,
Lancaster University

Catherine Hobbs
Senior lecturer in mathematics
School of Computing and Mathematical Sciences
Oxford Brookes University

Sarah Rees
Reader in pure mathematics School of Mathematics and Statistics
University of Newcastle

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