Q. A boy told my daughter that “girls can’t do math,” and the class does seem to have a stereotypical split of girls into reading and boys into math and science. What should I do if I want my daughter to excel in all areas and not follow age-old gender-based tracks?
A. It’s hard to believe that people still regurgitate that old stereotype to this day. There is lot of recent research out there that states that girls are just as capable at mathematics as boys. Girls and boys may approach problems differently and think about mathematics in different ways, but each gender is just as capable as the other at solving problems mathematically.
Female role models are a great way for your daughter to see women in action in math and the sciences. Taking the time to point out women who are doing mathematical things as you encounter them will help your daughter see how wrong that boy was.
The best thing that you can do to support your daughter is to help her find opportunities to have experiences with all areas of study outside of her classroom. Providing an opportunity to explore and play with math, science, technology as she encounters it in the real world will allow her to connect with the content while enjoying the experience. This will allow her to see herself in that discipline – not just as a student doing that discipline in a classroom. It’s a lot harder to listen to a stereotype if you have visions of yourself and others that prove that stereotype wrong.
Currently there is a strong focus on the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields. This focus has created a focus on providing opportunities for girls to experience these fields. Below are some resources that have advice as well as opportunities for how to support your daughter and find opportunities for her to explore her interests. Some of them are located here in Colorado, so you check to see if there are actual happenings close to you.
Girls math and Science Partnership
Colorado MESA (Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement)
Challenger Learning Center of Colorado
Durango Discovery Museum