Skating Into STEM: Teaching Middle School Girls Math Through Movement

SKATE stills 04 2 BS

Getting girls interested in careers in the STEM fields remains an ongoing challenge. Mayumi Suzue-Pan, a high school senior, noticed as early as middle school that she was one of very few female students in her upper-level math courses. When she joined the math team in high school, she saw her male classmates pursuing math extracurriculars far more frequently than her female peers.

So she started Solving Kinesthetically and Transforming Education (SKATE) for Girls, a program that combines math and ice skating to get girls interested in STEM.

Suzue-Pan and a few of her friends who serve as co-instructors teach middle school girls math through movement. The girls start their Saturday sessions by doing a kinesthetic math-related activity off the ice, then head out onto the ice to practice figure skating and tackle a math lesson before receiving more traditional tutoring off the ice.

With her experience as a figure skating instructor and as a math tutor at Mathnasium, in tandem with guidance from mentors, Suzue-Pan created the SKATE for Girls curriculum herself. She also advertised and sought funding from local organizations to ensure the program could be free to all participants.

The group held its first six-week session last winter and Suzue-Pan said she saw a 25 percent increase in math scores from the initial diagnostic test to the post-session test. But the benefits go beyond math and skating skills.

“A huge part of SKATE for Girls is being able to inspire young women and improve their confidence throughout the program,” Suzue-Pan said.

The program will hold its next session in August.