16 February 2012 08:59 AM

Girls and Math.

by rbavaria

There’s no sadder cry a teacher can hear from a student than, “I’ll never learn this!  I’m just no good!”


It’s heartbreaking.  And it’s untrue.


One of the more common of these cries is from girls who have somehow fallen for the corrosive myth that they’re not cut out for math.  Math is a subject for boys. 




I’ve written about it before , and I’ve fought the battle for years.  (The corresponding battle is that boys can’t write as well as girls.  That’s a myth, too.  Where do they get these ideas?)  I’ve enlisted the help of parents, teachers, helpful and helping students, and tutors.  We simply cannot let half our students think they’re incapable of learning a subject upon which so much of future jobs and opportunities depends.


Here are some thoughts and tips to help a daughter rid herself of the poisonous insecurity of math helplessness.  Remember, worrying doesn’t help – only action and determination do.


  1. Start early.  There are lots of ways to get our daughters interested in and feeling comfortable with math.  Show them that math is everywhere.  Show them how math touches our lives every day.  Show them how you use math in your daily life.  Help them find math in the kitchen, in the car, in sports, in technology, in fashion, in entertainment, and in favorite hobbies.  If they grow up with math, they won’t be fearful of it when it’s part of school.
  2. Be positive.  If you had the worst and meanest math teacher when you were in the fourth grade and have hated math ever since, oh, grow up.  You’re not in fourth grade any more.  Horror stories about math won’t help her.  If you still hate math, get over it.  Or at least keep it to yourself.  When you bad-mouth math, you’re giving her permission to hate it, too.  That’s not funny.  It’s just dumb.
  3. Be a good role model.  If you can’t figure out a tip on a restaurant bill, don’t laugh about it and pass the bill to someone who can.  Learn how to do it, for heaven’s sake.  If you can’t tell whether you’ve just been given the right change, here’s the perfect opportunity to strengthen your addition and subtraction skills.  You’re doing it for her, remember.
  4. Help her to relax. Stress and anxiety affect our brains in dastardly ways.  We have a hard time learning and remembering.  Anxiety about math today can grow into fear and difficulties tomorrow. Train her brain to think, “Math?  No sweat!”
  5. Set a goal.  When you set goals with her at the beginning of a new week, month, semester, and year, make math improvement a prominent one.  Maybe raise the report card grade.  Or raise the weekly math test grade.  Or decrease the math homework heartburn.  Or become better organized.  Decide together. 
  6. Get strong math friends.  There are plenty of her classmates who are good in math, boys and girls.  Encourage her to reach out to them.  Invite them over for Study Buddy Get Smart Dates from time to time, especially before quizzes and tests.  Kids like to learn from each other, ask each other questions, share insights, and clarify concepts in their own language.  They can even compete and celebrate a little. 
  7. Get help.  If she’s falling behind, her grades are falling, and her confidence is suffering, get help now.  The company I work for, Sylvan Learning  has been helping to raise kids’ math confidence for over thirty years. 
  8. Encourage her to participate in class.  Don’t start with this, but once you sense she’s stabilizing a little, encourage her to speak up in class.  Participating in class takes a little courage at first.  That courage builds each time she contributes.  She feels good when she’s correct.  She learns from her mistakes.  Her confidence rises.  She’s emboldened.  She recognizes that she can learn from her classmates.  I’ve seen it repeatedly over the years.
  9. Recognize her progress.  Make a big deal of even small improvements – an improved quiz grade, a neatly-done and complete homework assignment, a classroom contribution, a math comment at home.  She may not recognize it, so you point out how she’s improving.  Remind her that she’s advancing not because of luck but because of her improving skills and knowledge.
  10. Celebrate success.  When she makes a goal, no matter how small, celebrate it.  Doesn’t have to be a big deal.  A special treat, a meaningful comment, some alone-time with you.  Success breeds success.









5/16/2013 10:50:12 AM

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