In a recent study made by the Department of Science and Technology, female Filipino students outperformed males by more than 2 percent in Algebra, Fraction; and the males doing better in Geometry by only one per cent.
In the Philippines, it has been a common belief that males are better in Mathematics than females reflected by the overrepresentation of males in fields with numbers as the foundation such as Engineering, Aviation, Physics, and Mathematics. However the result of this study conducted by DOST disproved this common notion.
When I was eight I dreaded standing in front of my grade-two class reciting the table of multiplication. In my third grade, the difference between odd and even number escaped me that it took me two grading periods to know that an even number is divisible by two and the opposite is odd. When I turned 12, fractions were too complex for me to comprehend. I passed my subjects in high school algebra and geometry without knowing the fundamental concepts that govern them. In college, I dropped Math 17, a subject in algebra and trigonometry at UP. I barely passed a Mathematics appreciation course, Math 1, the only one I had to take in college as a Broadcast Communication student.
Math triggers a lot of biological flight responses in me. I experienced heart palpitation, increased blood pressure, pupil dilation, and over-secretion of saliva and digestive juices whenever I took exams involving number. I could’ve become a medical doctor had I been more confident with my math. But I survived the first twenty years of my life without Math, and I know that the succeeding years will not be that trying even if my background in Mathematics is shamelessly shameful.
In the Philippines, men are expected to do well with numbers. I remember the dread in the eyes of the wife of my landlord back in college, who is herself a graduate of the University of the Philippines, when I told her that I would be dropping Math 17 after failing the first two exams with dismally low scores, scores so low that I cannot bring myself to mention them here. She said “Daw kalabanan man sang lalaki mayo sa Math.” (Most men are good in Math) after I told her that I am giving up BS Biology because I did not want to stay in college for more than four years just because of failed foundation courses in Math.
In a way, I am thanking my weakness in the subject for it led me to the direction I am heading this time. One’s future, they say, is determined by his scholastic performance, which is not true all the time. Although the relationship I had with Math was that be of fear, hatred and detestation but it has forced me to make decisions that I never regretted.
A result of a study such as this one by the DOST may not change the long held belief of the correlation between number and one’s sex but at least it has started to create cracks in the great gender divide that pervades all aspects of Filipino culture. The study, in addition, allowed me to remember the challenges I had to go through in the past all because of Math, and how I overcame all of them and eventually do the thing I love to do – writing.