Math Options for Women 2003

At Penn State York

A Brief Description of the Program

Math Options for Women at Penn State York is a career awareness program for seventh grade (11-12 years old) girls highlighting opportunities in mathematics, science, engineering and technology.  The program, which is free for participants, brings together young women and professional women from academia, medicine, government agencies, business and industry for a day of learner-centered, hands-on workshops.  In addition, Math Options for Women hosts a career fair and distributes brochures to provide teachers and parents with information to guide young women toward career opportunities in mathematics, science, engineering and technology-related fields.

Description of the Participants

We invited all of the middle schools (both public and private) in York County plus two middle schools in Lancaster County (Manheim Township and Ephrata) to participate in Math Options for Women 2003.  Each school could send, free of charge, ten girls, one teacher (female seventh grade mathematics or science teachers are encouraged to attend) and one parent to the conference.  A total of 266 individuals (224 students, 28 teachers, and 14 parents) from 24 schools participated in Math Options 2003.  Additional participants included a panel of three students (Math Options alumna and current Penn State York), 3 career fair presenters, 27 workshop leaders (who also participated in the career fair), 25 student assistants (Penn State York and Harrisburg students and Penn State York alumnae), and 9 Steering Committee members.

The middle school students who participated in Math Options 2003 were chosen by the school (usually by our teacher contact).  Teachers use a variety of approaches for selecting the girls to attend the conference:  grades, lottery, essays, etc.  We ask the schools to select girls from all ability levels and to encourage girls to participate even though they may not yet show a genuine interest in college and/or mathematics and science.  Our hope is that by engaging these girls in meaningful, hands-on activities we will encourage more young women to consider a mathematics, science, engineering or technology-related career.

Other participants, who were responsible for facilitating workshops and a career fair, included representatives from Penn State, Northern High School, Harrisburg Area Community College, local businesses and industries, and the National Aquarium in Baltimore.

List of the Workshops

The titles of the eighteen workshops offered at Math Options 2003 are listed below.  Complete workshop descriptions are available.

            A PC Knight’s Tale

            After High School What? Choices and Decisions

            Arithmetic for Artists

            Be a Modern Day Galileo

            “Bounce” into Engineering

            Career Choices and Decisions

            Counting on DNA

            Creating a Web Page

            Don’t Be a Math Muggle – Be a Problem Solving Wizard!

            Getting “Physical” with Math and Science

            Introduction to CAD

            It’s Slime Time

            Marine Science Exploration: How Is a Squid Able to Survive in the Ocean?

            Tackling Topology

            Tasty Towers

            “The Heat is On”

            The Science of Cosmetics

            What a Girl Wants, What a Girl Needs

Goals and Objectives of the Program


·        To increase awareness in young women of careers in mathematics, science, engineering and technology

·        To encourage young women to take college preparatory mathematics courses in high school so that the doors to careers in science, engineering and technology remain open to them

·        To provide opportunities for young women to explore career options and to interact with professional women from mathematics, science, engineering, technology and related fields

·        To provide continuing support and encouragement for young women who have expressed interest in pursuing career opportunities in mathematics, science, engineering, technology and related fields

·        To provide teachers and parents with information to guide young women toward career opportunities in mathematics, science, engineering and technology


·        To expose each student to a variety of careers, with an emphasis on those careers that are considered non-traditional for women; role models for minority and other under-represented groups are included

·        To actively involve each student in each workshop that she attends through "hands-on" or "role playing" activities

·        To provide each student with the opportunity to speak personally with a workshop presenter, panelist or college career counselor at the conference

·        To provide students with tangible momentos of the Math Options for Women conference (e.g. certificate of attendance, t-shirt, tote bag) with the intent of providing long-term recollection of the experience

Measurement of Goals and Objectives

Most of the conference assessments have been qualitative. Before leaving the conference, we ask each participant (student, teacher, parent, presenter, student assistant) to complete an evaluation form to assess the organization of the day and workshop effectiveness.  In addition, we ask participants for suggestions to improve the conference. Teacher participants are asked to complete another evaluation after they have returned to their respective schools and have met with the student participants to discuss the benefits of the conference. The responses to all of the forms are tabulated and categorized and are then distributed to the Math Options Steering Committee for discussion.  The steering committee uses the results of the evaluations to determine the immediate effectiveness of the conference, to provide a workshop assessment to each workshop presenter, and to modify the conference program for the following year.

We are conducting a quantitative assessment (formative progress evaluation) to support a longitudinal study (on-going summative evaluation) of the program.  Our intention is to track the mathematics courses taken by the student conference participants throughout high school (grades 9 - 12), to gather data regarding the factors that have influenced the college/career choices of these young women, and to gather college admission data (e.g. name of the university and intended major).  Analyzing this data will reveal the percentage of student conference participants who take college preparatory mathematics courses and who ultimately enter college in mathematics, science, engineering or technology-related majors.  We gather the data via a questionnaire sent to each student participant (Math Options alumna) during her high school senior year.

Accomplishments of the Program

This program has brought together students and teachers from local middle schools, professors, career counselors and administrators from Penn State, professors from other universities, individuals from Harrisburg and Baltimore area educational facilities, and people from businesses and industries for a most exciting, informative and rewarding day-long conference.  Math Options has given our campus an opportunity to reach out to the community with a free educational conference to encourage young females to pursue careers in mathematics, science, engineering, technology or related fields. 

Students have commented that, as a result of participating in this conference, they understand how important mathematics and science are to their future success, and they are now considering non-traditional careers that require these skills.  We feel very strongly that we have positively influenced the future career paths of many of the student participants from the local middle schools by providing worthwhile experiences and excellent female role models.