I’m angry. Twenty years after “The Wonder Years,” “Winnie” is writing another book trying to overcome girls fear, or at least discomfort, with math. We still earn less than men for comparable work, are underappreciated in government and it’s still not cool for girls to be great in math and science. A 2008 study shows that boys score 2% higher in the 4th grade. By the 8th grade, the difference has virtually disappeared. In college, there is no gap in ability, but males are highly over represented among math majors. We are not attracting proficient women to the fields of math and science. When women are underrepresented, we are denied female input into solutions to problems and innovation. What is worse is that among wealthy developed nations, the U.S. (males and females combined) scores 31st in math and 23rdin science. That is a national tragedy.
Whose fault is this? Certainly not Danica McKellar’s, who is a very attractive spokesperson for getting girls to focus on the curves in Geometry rather than those at Victoria’s Secret.
We need to make girls aware that math is a part of every minute of their day, from the clock that wakes them up to the discount on their favorite pair of jeans. We need to do it early. We need to make math girly.
Computer programs or extra worksheets are not going to be the program. Having your little girl set the table for a tea party and asking her to get the right number of teacups for the two of you, plus her doll, is a start. Going shopping for clothes with your 10 year old, giving her a budget and having her keep track of her spending will help. The thing is it has to be personal, and it has to be fun. And it has to be praised. We need to focus girls’ attention on the Sally Rides and the “Winnies.”