Math is hard for girls.
I am old enough that what people said during my youth has gone by the wayside, or is at least trying to fall out of style.
When I was younger, I was indeed told that math is hard for girls. The Mattel Barbie “math is tough” offense happened while I was in junior high. People cited all sorts of research, failing to find just causation.
Boys like meat better than girls, and meat eaters have better brain functions.
Girls are social creatures and boys are task-oriented people.
Boys don’t read as much as girls, so boys want to be good at a different subject.
And, what my ed-psych classes taught (and provided actual research for):
Teachers may assume (knowingly or not) that boys are better at math, and focus their bias accordingly.
Society seems to be changing opinions on the math is hard for girls viewpoint, but like all change, it happens s-l-o-w-l-y.
What does this mean for a mother of two daughters, a mother of sons, a caring citizen – anyone?
We need to speak up. If you hear discouragement toward a girl and her attempts at math, encourage her. I bet you can figure it out!
We shouldn’t utter nonsense. I’ve almost done this myself – not because I believe that math is hard for girls, but because it is habit, an engrained statement I heard in a variety of settings by an assortment of people. We need to be aware of this, and correct ourselves if we say it.
We need to purchase with awareness. Toys are toys. Blocks, magnets, and card games teach mathematical skills. Unfortunately, they are marketed without pink and purple – the official “girly” colors of advertising. They are for girls though. They are for boys. They are for children.
To end the math is hard for girls mantra, we don’t have to club people over the head with an engineering book. We need to be aware of the misconceptions, speak politely and confidently, and encourage our girls along the way.
What else can we do to end the “math is hard for girls” stereotype?