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Achieving Gender Equity in the High School CS Classroom

I found that the simple acting of writing a promotional letter for the introduction to CS course and mailing it to all the students (both male and female) that performed well in either Geometry or Algebra II increased not only the quality of my students but more impressively, it almost completely evened out the gender ratio in my classrooms.  I went from having around 20% female students to just under 50%.


lognaturel's picture

This is an interesting idea and you could make it actionable by attaching a couple of examples for others to modify and use.

By lognaturel

Sorry about that, I meant to do that originally but was on the wrong computer. I'm pasting a copy of the letter I've used below.

Hello ,

My name is Mr. Fletcher and I am the Computer Science teacher at Park View.
I am writing this letter to a few select students in the sophomore and
freshman classes. According to Math teachers at Park View you were listed
as someone who has great potential in the field of mathematics. While
computer science is not exactly math, it is often the case that those who do
well in math also do well in computer science. In the paragraphs below I
list a few of the reasons why you may want to consider signing up for
Computer Math next year. Perhaps you will find some of these reasons
appealing and reason enough to sign up. Either way I would like to
congratulate you for being recognized by your math teachers as an excellent
achiever with great potential for success in mathematics and its related
fields of study.

What is Computer Math?

The first year course, Computer Math, and the second year course, AP
Computer Science, are courses in the art of computer programming. In
particular, they are focused on the art of programming in Java.

Java is an object-oriented programming language that is currently being used
all over the world for developing software. For programs that need to
operate over the Internet it is often the programming language of choice.

Why should I take Computer Math?

First of all, if you are one of the hundreds of Park View students who have
an interest in computers or technology you should definitely be signing up
for this course. In fact, you shouldn’t even be reading any more of this
letter as you should already be attempting to get in touch with your
guidance counselor to find out how you can sign up.

Second, the skills acquired in these classes can be the first steps toward a
fascinating and rewarding career in computers. The field of computer
science is continuing to grow at a fantastic rate. According to the U.S.
Department of Labor the fastest growing occupation is that of a Computer
Software Engineer (a computer programmer). The salaries of software
engineers are also among the highest in all fields where most workers
possess a Bachelor’s degree.

Now let me address those students who may not be leaning toward a career in

If you like solving problems/puzzles, you will love this course. The art of
computer programming is in its very essence, the art of problem solving. If
you like crossword puzzles, logic puzzles, or solving riddles of any sort,
this course will appeal to you.

If you are someone who likes to argue, you will love this course. Many
people compare the art of creating a computer program to that of
constructing a well-formulated argument. Those who see themselves as
someone who can confidently put together a strong argument are well suited
for transferring this skill into constructing a computer program.

Both Computer Math and AP Computer Science utilize graphics and animation to
help students realize the full extent of their programming potential. These
are not lecture and note-taking classes where the students sit idle. These
are hands-on courses in which students spend a majority of their time
experimenting with the art of programming on actual computers.

Finally, the majority of students who take Computer Math before their senior
year discover that they are enjoying the subject so much that they sign up
for the AP Computer Science course the following year. I highly recommend
students sign up to take Computer Math their Sophomore or Junior year so
that they will have the option of enrolling in the AP course the following
year should they be so inclined.

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter, and I hope to see you in
Computer Math next fall.

Mr. Fletcher

By sfletche
wolfmurphy's picture

I especially like your "If you've read this far" and "if you like to argue".

I know several people, like myself, who were mathematicians, and thought they were amusing themselves playing with the computer. I ended up having a 30+ year career as a high performance computer science professional. This might be another reason to consider the jump.

... Tom

By wolfmurphy