• by Aurora Yáñez-Pérez, M.A. • IDRA Newsletter • March 1996 • 

Throughout their school experience, girls consistently rate their intellectual abilities lower than boys, despite the fact that girls generally get better grades and score higher on most aptitude tests (Sadker and Sadker, 1994). Early in their school years, girls come to believe that engineering, science and mathematics are closely identified with the male role and avoid these courses. This phenomenon of science and math avoidance closes off their chances for future career choices and diminishes their earning potential.

To reverse these trends, the IDRA Engineering, Science and Mathematics Increases Job Aspirations (ES-MIJA) program has identified 60 Hispanic girls in the sixth grade who have not made plans to pursue higher level courses in science or mathematics. The goal is to increase the opportunities of Hispanic girls by increasing their awareness of science- and math-related careers and by encouraging their enrollment in advanced mathematics courses with an introduction to engineering. Specific program goals for this school-year and summer include:

  • Increase the knowledge and skills of Hispanic sixth grade girls in science and mathematics.
  • Increase the level of awareness that Hispanic sixth grade girls have about science- and math-related careers.
  • Provide training and technical assistance to school personnel on gender equity and student achievement.
  • Develop the competencies of parents of Hispanic girls on providing academically related encouragement and support.

The program, funded by the National Science Foundation, includes instructional, training and support components. The instructional component involves the development of creative lessons, experiences and projects to increase the girls’ interest and skills in the subjects of mathematics and science. This gives the participants techniques for decreasing math and test-taking anxiety through explicit teaching and verbalization of math operations, including logical reasoning. In addition, opportunities are provided for the participants to visit and see first-hand the career opportunities associated with mathematics and science.

In training on math and science for girls, gender equity and school achievement, teachers receive information on the relationship between teacher interaction and feedback to students and their achievement.

The support component identifies sources of support from various segments of the community, including the business sector and parents. Business professionals are asked to visit the classroom to make presentations. Parents receive training linking math and science skills, career choices and income. They also learn communication techniques for providing encouragement and support to their daughters.

The ES-MIJA program is an expansion of IDRA’s MIJA program funded by the U.S. Department of Education in previous years. Based on IDRA experience with the MIJA program, the following outcomes are expected:

  • Increased awareness of science and math career possibilities to which the girls are not normally exposed.
  • Unique opportunities for young girls to interact with role models who share a common cultural background with the Hispanic girls and the math perspectives they bring.
  • Greater success in the science and mathematics classes.
  • Increased knowledge and skills in science and math.
  • Decreased science and math and test-taking anxiety through explicit teaching and verbalization of science and math operations, including logical reasoning.
  • Greater opportunities for visiting and seeing firsthand the career opportunities associated with science and math.
  • Increased teacher awareness and improved instruction.
  • New linkages between parents and schools.

These results are already revealing themselves as they have in earlier years. Through role modeling, meaningful direct instruction, participation in math and science conferences and visits to places where men and women use mathematics as part of their daily activities, girls begin to redefine their relationships with mathematics and science (De Luna and Montes, 1995).


De Luna, Anna and Felix Montes. “MIJA Girls Getting Excited About Math: Assessing the Outcomes of the MIJA Program,” IDRA Newsletter (San Antonio, Texas: Intercultural Development Research Association, February 1995).

Sadker, David and Myra Sadker. Failing at Fairness: How America’s Schools Cheat Girls (New York: Charles Scribners Sons, 1994).

Aurora Yáñez-Pérez is a research assistant in the IDRA Division of Research and Evaluation. Comments and questions may be sent via e-mail to feedback@idra.org.

[©1996, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the March 1996  IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]