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March 02, 2005



Among high school math teachers the conventional wisdom is that boys tend to do better at geometry, girls at algebra. Maybe it just has to do with males slightly better ability with spatial thinking. But then here you have this article showing that women are very active inb this area of geometry.


Subjects like algebraic geometry require very little spatial thinking.

Abiola Lapite

"Subjects like algebraic geometry require very little spatial thinking."

Perhaps - I think you might want to take a look at Shafarevich's textbook before pronouncing too definitely, as you might be surprised - but differential topology does.

Peter Woit

Hi Abiola,

I've never noticed seen evidence of women mathematicians having a preference for algebra over geometry. If anything, the opposite.

Joan Birman (note spelling!) has had a remarkable career. She's now 77 but still very active in mathematical research at a high level, something I think very few men have accomplished. While she's still active as a researcher, she very recently finally officially retired, there will be a conference in her honor in a couple weeks here at Columbia. She didn't actually get her Ph.D until she was 41. I guess this was because she mostly raised her children before seriously starting her research career.

Abiola Lapite

"note spelling!"

Thanks for pointing that out; it's fixed now. Birman's story is truly inspiring, especially in light of the widely-held conviction that mathematics is a young man's game.

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