Gann Women Thrive in Math and Science

Hodaya Propp likes building robots. Zoe Weiss is a whiz at programming. Gann girls are members of the math team and the Women in STEM club, compete in mathematics competitions, take upper level science and math courses and just plain love any activity that kicks their left brain into gear. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

“Gann has been a very supportive place for me,” says Weiss, who will study computer science next year at Brown University and has dreams of working for Pixar. “My teachers in all my STEM classes have been very encouraging.” Weiss was recently named a winner of the National Center for Women & Information Technology Award for Aspirations in Computing, through its Massachusetts affiliate. The award recognizes high school women for their computing-related achievements.

“There’s lots of opportunity inside and outside of the curriculum for girls to get really involved in math and science,” says Math Department Chair Chris Heap-Senhouse. “We have many girls who are very passionate about these subjects, and the stereotype that girls who like this stuff are single-minded and ‘nerdy’ just doesn’t hold true here.”

Propp, who is also co-captain of the math team, is one example. Although she took college-level calculus as a ninth grader, she’s also an avid poet, a singer and a pianist. “I like to do a lot of things and they happen to be different,” says the 12th grader.

Heap-Senhouse said that while women are far better represented in college math and science courses than they were in the past, pursuing STEM majors can still be somewhat daunting for females. He and other faculty talk with female students about the challenges they’ll encounter post-Gann and try to bring women who work in STEM fields to the school as often as possible. In fact, it was during a talk by 2004 Gann graduate and Pixar animator Ariela Nurko that Weiss, then a freshman, decided she wanted to learn how to code.

Gann girls will have even more opportunities to excel in STEM courses next year when Gann adds more computer science classes and an additional advanced elective in physics.
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