Spatial Reasoning and Problem-based Learning to Improve Girls' Math Identity (2019-2020)

This Bass Connections team created Girls Exploring Math (GEM), an innovative program designed to address the gender gap in math. Duke undergraduate and graduate STEM majors led weekend workshops for Durham Public Schools middle school girls.

GEM workshops combined mathematics problem-solving with interactive discussions of the socioemotional factors that affect persistence in STEM.

Team members administered both a pre-test and a post-test to workshop participants. Survey questions target their attitudes and beliefs about math and social identity. The survey also includes a math assessment. They found that students’ performance on math tests improved between the beginning and end of the program. Participants also demonstrated increased confidence and an increased belief that innate sex difference do not cause the gender gap in STEM.


Summer 2019 – Summer 2020

Team Outputs

Shrinking the Gender Gap in STEM (Fortin Foundation Bass Connections Virtual Showcase 2020)

Spatial Reasoning and Problem-based Learning to Improve Girls’ Math Identity (poster by Sophia Santillan, Tori Akin, Lauren Valentino, Aidan Combs, Becca Erenbaum, Pingyi Zhu, Preethi Kannan, Selena Qian, Michelle Yin, Vivian Chen, Ashley Rosen)


Faculty Perspectives: Sophia Santillan

Selena Qian

This Team in the News

Senior Spotlight: Reflections from the Class of 2021

To Shrink the Gender Gap in STEM, Start with Girls’ Math Identity

This project team was originally part of the Education & Human Development theme of Bass Connections, which ended in 2022. See related teams, Improving Girls’ Math Identity through Problem-solving and Mentorship (2020-2021) and Problem-based Learning to Improve Girls’ Math Identity (2018-2019).

STEM girls.

Team Leaders

  • Victoria Akin, Arts & Sciences-Mathematics
  • Sophia Santillan, Pratt School of Engineering-Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science
  • Lauren Valentino, The Ohio State University

/graduate Team Members

  • Aidan Combs, Sociology-AM, Sociology-PHD

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Vivian Chen, Neuroscience (BS)
  • Rebecca Erenbaum, Statistical Science (BS)
  • Preethi Kannan, Computer Science (BS)
  • Hannah Marchuk, Biology (BS)
  • Selena Qian, Interdepartmental Major
  • Ashley Rosen, Mechanical Engineering (BSE)
  • Michelle Yin, Mathematics (BS)
  • Pingyi Zhu, Economics (BS)

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Martha Putallaz, Arts & Sciences-Psychology and Neuroscience
  • Christina L. Williams, Arts & Sciences-Psychology and Neuroscience
  • Ara Wilson, Arts & Sciences-Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies

/zcommunity Team Members

  • Durham Public Schools