It’s all about how we talk to girls.
A recent study found that American mothers are twice as likely to discuss number concepts with their sons as they are with their daughters! ”For cardinal-numbers speech, in which a number is attached to an obvious noun reference-‘Here are five raisins,’ or ‘Look at those two beds’-the difference was even larger. Mothers were three times more likely to use such formulations while talking to boys.”
The issue that arises: One of the researchers, Alicia Chang, found that by grade school, “boys are very confident at math, and girls are saying boys are better at math. The issue isn’t actual performance but perception of competence. We hypothesized that by the time you’re in grade school, you might like math because your mother was more likely to talk to you about it when you were very, very young.”
ACK! It’s subconscious! It’s coming from our own built-in ideas about gender that we’ve been taught since we were little! So let’s start being conscious. It’s odd that they only researched how mothers speak to their children, but I think the lessons applies to us all. So what can we do? Consciously talk to your girls about math concepts! (Of course we should teach all children about math, but the study suggests that we have the talking to boys about it down pat).
- If your girl is very young, ask how many cheerios you just handed her, how many books you just read, or how many dogs she sees. Bring up numbers.
- If your girl is a little older, have her help you calculate how much change you’re going to get back when you pay the bill at a restaurant.
- Show her how to calculate her batting average or golf handicap after the game.
- Bring up math-related stories in the news.
- Point out any female mathematicians and scientists you discovers so she can see those as possible careers.
- Act excited about math yourself, even if you’re not. Role model it!
- If you really really really hate math, find her a math mentor who isexcited.
Thank you for contributing to the well-being of girls, which really contributes to the well-being of the whole world!