Dance program shows girls and math can add up

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- In Cambridge, Massachusetts, middle school girls are learning more than new dance steps; they're learning math from Kirin Sinha, a senior at MIT.

Well aware of the shortage of women in math and the sciences, Sinha developed a curriculum to reach 12- and 13-year-old girls at an age when studies show their confidence drops. It's called "SHINE," which is exactly what it prepares them to do.

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Kirin Sinha
CBS News

Once a week after school, the girls go downstairs to dance, then upstairs to put pencil to paper -- even markers to glass.

"And when they go upstairs and they have a mental block about -- 'I don't understand how to solve this equation,' we can say, 'Well, think about what you did at the dance studio downstairs,'" Sinha says.

She agrees it's a process of breaking down concepts into language or ideas that girls can get their arms around, adding, "And more than just get their arms around it -- actually throw their bodies into and physically do."

Students like Catherine Cunningham are tested at the start of each eight-week session and again at the end.

"They explain it really clearly and then they, like, make sure," Catherine says. "And then they do a lot of examples, which is good."

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Middle school girls are learning more than new dance steps; they're learning math.
CBS News

This year, Sinha says, there was a 273 percent improvement in problem solving.

"I feel like before, I didn't really like -- I would say, 'Oh, I don't like math. I just don't like it,'" says Marlene DiGiovanni. "But now, I'm like, 'Well, I don't want to say that I don't like it, because it really isn't all that bad.'"

These girls are learning a vital lesson: don't let anyone box them in to any stereotype.

"What we really want to teach these girls is that those boxes that they feel they might be in are completely imaginary," Sinha says.

And in the process, they're shattering the idea that girls and math don't add up.

  • Jim Axelrod

    Jim Axelrod is the anchor of the Saturday edition of the "CBS Evening News" and a national correspondent for CBS News, reporting for the "CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley" and other CBS News broadcasts.

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