Everybody’s Good at Math

This past Monday we had a great #mathchat via Twitter. The topic was: “If you could clear one misconception about mathematics and/or teaching it, what would it be?”

I was getting a bit frustrated that a couple of people kept bringing up the misconception that girls aren’t good at math. Even to the point of creating their own hashtag #girlsaregoodatmath2.

In my life, I’ve never heard anyone say this – in any other form than somebody complaining that people say it.

So here’s my response to everyone who keeps saying to me, “I wish people would stop saying, ‘Girls aren’t good at math.'”

What do you think? What will you say from here on out?

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8 Responses to Everybody’s Good at Math

  1. I am the creator of the Twitter campaign #girlsaregoodatmath2. I think you should read my post about the conception of the campaign here, http://wp.me/p1P9xO-3G.

    I understand @mathfour’s concerns that the way we say this message may imply that girls aren’t good in math, which is the opposite of the campaign’s purpose.

    However, I would like to bring up a point that @mathfour and I discussed on Twitter today. We discussed what the best response to a negative stereotype or inappropriate behavior is. @mathfour thinks that we should just roll our eyes when someone behaves badly. I think that a campaign to help counterbalance stereotypes is the way to go. For example, NAACP helps educate and fight stereotypes against colored people. Shouldn’t we be able to create a campaign that helps fight stereotypes against girls in mathematics?

    Remember, we may not always have the opportunity to roll our eyes because subtle, unconscious messages affect female students as well…

    Check out the blog at linasouid.wordpress.com. Discuss this with me on Twitter @LinaSouid.

    Hope to continue the friendly discussion with you, @mathfour. We want the same thing, but in different ways–which is fun!

    I will add a poll on this soon. Come vote on the blog!

    • From the perspective of psychology:

      1) Untrue or not, you have to include a stereotype in order to claim that it isn’t true. (e.g. I wish people would stop saying “Girls aren’t good at math.”) Just being exposed to a statement gets people thinking that it may have some validity.
      2) When we offer a general inclusionary statement, the purpose or message may not be understood (e.g. “Everyone is good at math.” having the purpose of including females in the group of folks who are good at math.) It’s like saying “All containers hold liquid” when you are trying to promote the use of coffee cups for orange juice.

      Perhaps the way to send the message and to preclude the unintended spread of the stereotype – in this case that girl’s AREN’T good at math – perhaps it could be simply “Girls are good at math.”

      Proposed (re)solution?
      Better yet, instead of making a simple statement, we could give examples that defy the (alleged) stereotype thereby working to discredit it AND avoiding it’s perpetuation. It’s easy to argue with a statement (such as “Girls aren’t good at math.). If a brief profile of a woman who is an astronaut, an architect, an engineer, etc. is shared, it begins to dissolve the stereotype without spreading it.

      • Thank you. I agree with all your points. I hope you have read my explanation of #girlsaregoodatmath2. It is on my blog at linasouid.wordpress.com.

        As an engineer and math teacher I plan to promote positive role models in the campaign. I discussed on the blog that I would like to show female students that they can be feminine and enjoy/excel at math. I think female students feel like they need to choose one over the other.

        The reason why there is a ‘2’ is because I do not intend all girls to run towards math, science and engineering. I want to acknowledge that they may be good at other things as well. It can also be read that ‘you may think boys are good at math, but girls are good at math too’.

        All in all, I am fighting against the automatic response, ‘I can’t do math’ or ‘I don’t like math’. I hear these statements a lot from female students in class, before they even try! I believe this is coming from the stereotypes in the culture right now. I am trying to counterbalance the stereotype by having great math, science, engineering professionals use the hashtag #girlsaregoodatmath2.

        Show your support! Continue the discussion.

        • I am involved in my local AAUW study group of their research called, “Why so Few?” I look forward to learning more about the research, so I can be of more help in this conversation. My thoughts all come from my experiences and I’m really looking forward to discovering the research and modifying my thoughts accordingly.

          Thank you so much, Lina!

    • How wonderful! Thanks so much, Cindy. I appreciate the kind words and the vote of confidence, in addition to the nomination.

    • Bummer, Christine. It’s uploaded to YouTube, so it shouldn’t be a problem anywhere. I’m not sure how to advise you.

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