When you first sit down at the elementary school cafeteria table filled with girls, there is an interview.
“How old are you?”*
“How many kids do you have?”
“How many pets are at your house?”
There are a dozen additional questions, but the common theme of the answers is that they are numbers. I asked the girls if they like math. “Ewwwww.” The chorus of disapproval was followed by a sing-song game where the girls ask each other questions that are answered with numbers.
“What’s your favorite number?”
“What’s your favorite color?”
“What’s your dog’s name?”
In groups of adult women, there is a recurring story theme that begins, “I hate math.” This declaration is followed by an elaborate real world math application that would make SAT takers break out in a cold sweat. My favorite one involves a vehicle’s fuel consumption, distance until the next coffee shop and required potty stops.
Girls like numbers. They may have been told they don’t, but they do. They may have been told math is hard, but it doesn’t have to be. They may think there is an unwritten rule that girls must claim to hate math, but there isn’t. Numbers are everywhere and we use them constantly. Without numbers, we wouldn’t have the technology that our children think has always existed. Without math, we won’t have new … anything. If men are the only people acknowledging their math skills, men will be the only innovators.
Do we want our daughters’ futures determined by the inventions, cures, technology and weapons of men?
*After our mayor visited the class, I asked my child what the mayor said to them. The only thing she remembered was the mayor’s age.