Talking to your Daughters about Math
Here’s what you should talk about when you talk to your daughters about math.
1) Tell them that hard work matters the most. No one is actually hard wired for math. Men being genetically better than women at math is a myth that is falsely perpetuated from generation to generation.
2) If you’re a mom who struggled with math, be honest. Tell your child it was hard for you but now that you’re an adult, you want to give it another go. We learn throughout our lifetimes. Be a model learner.
Encourage, support and be their biggest cheerleader. Sometimes our young women need us to be their best critics. Not when it comes to math! It’s a jungle out there, and they need you positivity.
3) If you’re a mom and loved math as a student, tell your daughter why. If you still have your old report cards, show your daughter that you took advanced math classes. It matters.
4) Lie. (Or, don’t tell the whole truth) If they are about to take a standardized test, make clear to them that women do just as well as men on these tests. Such statements to girls before they take tests are proven to make a difference in their confidence, partially mitigating stereotype threat and bias.
5) Encourage, support and be their biggest cheerleader. Sometimes our young women need us to be their best critics. Not when it comes to math! It’s a jungle out there, and they need you positivity.
6) And dads. Stay out of it. If you and your spouse are comfortable with it, let mom do the math homework with your daughter. Diving in and saving the day will not help. And, if you need something to do that’s productive, go read to your son or your daughter or by yourself in a public space. Our kids need to know that men read.
For a concise, clear-headed explanation of the research on gender and mathematics, please read:
Sex Differences in Intrinsic Aptitude for Mathematics and Science? A Critical Review by Elizabeth Spelke, Harvard University, American Psychologist. Dec. 2005.