Today, Wednesday, 8 March 2023, is International Women’s Day.
To mark the day, I have picked some of my favourite female mathematicians to share with you, and I hope to give you some ideas as to how your school/college could use them to enrich the curriculum.
Hypatia (About 355 CE to 415)
Hypatia is universally recognised as the first famous female mathematician and teacher and was known as the greatest mathematician and astronomer of her time. Hypatia was also the leader of the Neoplatonist school of philosophy in Alexandra, Egypt, where she lived and died.
Check out The Creation of Number | Ben Sparks, where Ben talks about Hypatia as well as topics such as ‘who killed Hippasus’ and ‘Just why is A4 paper 287mm long?’. Ben is known for his inspirational talks. He also works for the AMSP (Advanced Mathematics Support Programme) and is a regular presenter at our events.
Also, check out Hypatia | STEM Sisters (hmdt.org.uk), which includes fantastic resources and Physics lesson plans that could be used in maths lessons too.
Katherine Johnson (1918-2020), Dorothy Vaughan (1910-2008), and Mary Jackson (1921-2005)
These three African American mathematicians made NASA’s early space missions possible. Originally known as ‘human computers’, they were responsible for calculating the complex maths equations required to obtain the orbital trajectories for the first space missions in the 1960s.
The film Hidden Figures (2016) – IMDb, is a good end-of-term film to watch in either a history, science or maths lesson or a combination of all three? There are lots of resources out there for use in lessons too.
The Wrens (Women’s Royal Naval Service, WRNS)
‘The Wrens’ was the n
ickname of the female codebreakers who made up around 75% of the workforce at Bletchley Park during World War II.
Bletchley Park makes for a great school trip, Plan a Visit | Bletchley Park, not only for history but for maths and computer science classes. It was a top-secret base in WW2, where mathematicians worked on codebreaking, most famously the enigma code. Students can learn about the amazing work of those who cracked codes and helped end the war.
The Imitation Game (2014) – IMDb is also a great film to whet their appetite ahead of a school trip to Bletchley Park.
There are many codebreaking activities on TES, including: Bletchley Park Code Breaking Activities | Teaching Resources (tes.com), and here: Centre for Innovation in Mathematics Teaching – Codes Resources (cimt.org.uk).
Please check out our website for information about girls’ involvement in advanced maths, which includes research, strategies and recourses to aid schools/colleges in encouraging female students to pursue post-16 maths.