Girls and Maths

Information About Girls in Mathematics

The number of girls studying mathematics has continued to rise in recent years, with over 37,000 girls in the UK completing a course in A-level Mathematics in summer 2017, of which around 4,400 also completed A Level Further Mathematics.

Universities and employers are keen to recruit female students into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects and also to a wide range of other degree courses and careers requiring quantitative skills, such as Psychology, Social Sciences, Economics and Geography.

The breadth of the applicability of mathematics is enormous, and for a large number of degree courses an A level in Mathematics is an essential or desirable qualification. The study of Mathematics offers opportunities for creativity, team-working and communication, and for many careers it is the ability to explain complicated concepts clearly to a non-mathematical audience that is in demand.

Profiles

There are a wide range of careers in which mathematics is used on a daily basis including business and finance, meteorology, health protection and even analysis of crime. Read more about female mathematicians and the way they use mathematics in their careers: Careers of Female Mathematicians.


Transition phases

When moving from GCSE to A-level, or from A-level to undergraduate study, the transition period can sometimes feel overwhelming. There can be a ‘step-up’ phase during which students do not feel as prepared as they hoped. This is quite normal and many students experience the same feelings.
The following profiles outline some female students' feelings during transition phases at various stages in their mathematical education and offers advice for students going through a similar transition.



To help prepare for a mathematics degree, or a degree with mathematical content, the following mathematical resources offer opportunities for practising important skills and introducing some new concepts.


You can also look at examples of the mathematical content you are likely to study on a range of degree courses via the relevant degree course page.


Mathematics in other subjects and society

Mathematics is all around us and impacts upon many aspects of our daily lives, often without us even being aware of it. This leads to a wide range of fascinating careers that may not have existed ten or twenty years ago. For example:

  • Forensic accountants use their mathematical skills to look for evidence of suspicious financial transactions and hence identify financial fraud.

  • A technique called Fourier transforms codes file sizes of MP3 files to make them sufficiently small to allow so many tracks to be help on a small MP3 device.

  • Differential equations are used to model the flow of wind speed, temperature and cloud which are solved using computer simulations. These calculations are used to predict future weather patterns.

  • Hawk-Eye computer technology uses geometry, mechanics and statistics to process a large number of digital images. These are used to model the motion of a ball in various sports such as tennis, to determine whether a ball is in play at a given point in time.

  • Simultaneous equations are used to model the links between web pages and the solution is used to rank sites in order of relevance in search engines on the internet.

  • Mathematical and statistical techniques are used to analyse chemical and genetic constituents of foodstuffs to determine how safe foodstuffs are to members of the public

  • Mathematical analysis of operational procedures in an organisation provide managers with information to make strategic decisions, for example in organising the logistics of transporting stock for a large supermarket chain

Mathematics also forms a fundamental part of a range of other subjects, including finance, biology, psychology and social sciences.


Recommended reading

Female mathematicians have played significant roles in many developments in mathematics and related subjects. For example, in the 1800s Ada Lovelace worked with Charles Babbage on the development of a machine which used punched cards to "read" instructions for solving mathematical problems, a forerunner of modern computers. A century later, in the 1950s, the American Grace Hopper developed the revolutionary concept of a ‘compiler’, an intermediate program used by a computer, to translate instructions written in English into code – she is also thought to be the first person to use the term ‘debug’.

In recent years, a number of texts authored by females texts authored by female mathematicians have been published.

More recommended reading around the subject of mathematics can be found on the MEI website and you might also be interested in following the Women in Maths Facebook page.


Useful Links

There are a wide range of organisations that promote and encourage girls to study mathematics and related subjects post-16.

  • STEMNET Six women discuss how they use mathematics in their day to day work, from haematology to project management
  • Engineering Development Trust Opportunities for work experience in STEM subjects, some of which are specifically targeted at girls
  • Women In Science and Engineering (WISE) Advice and guidance for girls and women on pathways into science and engineering careers
  • Tomorrow's Engineers Find out all about engineering careers with advice on study, apprenticeships and careers resources
  • STEMETTES Panel events, hackathons, exhibitions, and mentoring schemes, designed to encourage girls into STEM subjects
  • Women in Maths Careers videos produced by the University of Nottingham which feature women discussing their work in mathematics and how it relates to other subjects such as Biology.
  • Futuremorph Guidance about careers in maths and science, including games and ‘quiz the scientist’ pages
  • Mathscareers Guidance on entering careers relating to mathematics
  • Women In Space Profiles of females working within the Aviation and Aerospace Industries
  • An Industrial Engineer career guide A summary of some of the many opportunities within engineering, written by an American engineer, Lisa Richards