Our Daughters and Math: Some Conversations Need a Big Fat Delete Button

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Last week I received an email from my daughter’s school asking if I would volunteer to help with math enrichment. Math enrichment, a program run by parent volunteers, provides extra instruction to 4th grade kids who are deemed to have a significant aptitude for math. When I arrived at the school, I realized that out of the eight kids selected for enrichment, only two were girls.

mathAfter the volunteer session ended I asked the two teachers why they thought more girls were not placed in the program. The conversation was not a statistical or fact-based chat. It was a nuanced conversation about our own observations. The most fascinating of which was the following: Many families have the following scenario play out in their house. A child comes home from school and has a question about the math homework. She asks her mom, and the response is, “I don’t know, I was never good at math, ask your Dad.” I know that was said in my house and I’ve heard many of my fellow moms say that. And if this is what your child hears, how is that internalized? For the most part, boys think they are good at math because they “model” their dads. So does that mean girls who believe they’re not good at math “model” their moms?

Of course there are a variety of factors at work when it comes to girls and their perceptions about their aptitude for math… and I cover some of them in “Calling All Moms: Stop Saying That!” published in Code Like A Girl.