• Podcast

Eugenia Cheng rethinks gender around maths

‘Is there a relationship between maths, gender and learning? How might it be characterised?’ Dr Eugenia Cheng shares her ideas.

Eugenia Cheng rethinks gender around maths
  • Published: 07/11/2019

Dr Eugenia Cheng is a research mathematician who teaches maths to arts students at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She was born and educated in England and is an honorary fellow at the University of Sheffield. Eugenia holds a strong commitment to making maths accessible to all, and to this end, is the author of a number of popular maths books and articles.

Eugenia’s reflections on being a woman in the world of research mathematics make for interesting listening. She compares her experiences of teaching maths students and arts students and argues that associating certain behaviours with masculinity or femininity is unhelpful. To make the world of maths more open to all, she suggests we adopt a different way of thinking and talking – and even makes up some new words!

Her thought-provoking ideas about maths, gender, how children learn, and cooking (!) will be of interest to anyone wondering about why maths alienates some of their students.

No time to listen to the full podcast? Read the short synopsis article.

Show notes

Taking part in the discussion are:

  • Dr Eugenia Cheng, Scientist In Residence at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago
  • Gwen Tresidder, Communications Manager, NCETM

Useful links

Eugenia mentions Christopher Danielson's book Which one doesn’t belong?. There is also an associated website.

Eugenia’s website: www.eugeniacheng.com.

Eugenia also uses abstract mathematics analogies to explain the world we live in – in her TEDx talk she explains social inequality using prime factorisation!

You can also find Eugenia’s series of cooking videos ‘The Mathster Chef’ (go to the bottom of the page). 

00:59 Eugenia’s background
07:34 Teaching arts students vs teaching maths students
09:08 How has teaching arts students developed Eugenia’s ideas about maths and gender?
10:31 How a person’s feelings about winning or losing might be linked to whether they like maths
13:13 Eugenia suppressing her femininity in order to succeed as a maths researcher
14:52 How society has associated character traits with gender
16:47 ‘Ingressive’ and ‘congressive’: new words for character types that are not attached to gender
19:31 How might Eugenia’s ideas affect the way maths is taught?
21:34 Making a safe classroom environment
24:20 What sort of environment was Eugenia taught in at school?
26:32 Removing the emphasis on right and wrong answers in maths
29:14 How is maths like cooking?
34:06 Where to find out more…

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