Women’s History Month, celebrated from March 1 to March 31, is a celebration of the contributions women have made to events throughout history. It was first celebrated in the United States in 1911 in the Santa Rosa region in California and was originally dubbed Women’s History Week running through the first week of March. The original organisers coincided their celebration with International Women’s Day on March 8, an event that is still celebrated worldwide today. In 1987 after being petitioned by the National Women’s History Project, Congress passed Pub. L. 100-9 which designated the month of March 1987 as Women’s History Month.
Throughout the years there have been many important women making their mark on history in the world of mathematics. Some of these women include:
- Fern Hunt, whose work today is being used in the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) to calculate the spread of COVID-19.
- Maryam Mirzakhani, who is the only woman to have been awarded the Fields Medal, which is universally regarded as the world’s most prestigious mathematics prize for her work on geometry.
Hypatia of Alexandra, whose many contributions involved several fields of mathematics including advanced geometry, computation methods, and applications to astronomy.
The identity of these women will forever be tied to mathematics. Forming a mathematical identity is a lifelong process. It begins in primary school when students begin to establish a positive relationship with mathematics which is essential for their long-term enjoyment of, and their ongoing success, in mathematics.
ORIGO Education’s goal has always been ‘to make learning mathematics meaningful, enjoyable and accessible for all’, an objective that allows students to form a positive relationship with mathematics, and in turn, build a mathematics identity. By creating a positive environment around mathematics and ‘removing the fear’, students will feel engaged so when they are challenged, they will persevere and overcome the challenges. This stance is something that ORIGO Education enforces to the students of today, some who may end up becoming important figures in history and in mathematics.
One of the classroom practices that supports students’ development and strengthens their positive identity as learners and doers of mathematics is confronting the stereotypical image of who a mathematician can be. By highlighting Women’s History Month, and in turn, women in mathematics, we can help every student discover and reflect not only on these mathematicians’ multifaceted talent, but also on the many biases and societal expectations that hampered these women’s careers.