Gretchen L. Kelly, Author

The Problem With Girls In Math And Science

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Last year I went to a Parent-Teacher conference with my daughter’s G.T. (Gifted and Talented) teacher. She sang my daughter’s praises. I basked in her glowing words and swelled with pride. Until she said this:

“She’s really good in math. Probably one of my best math students. Even better than the boys in the class.” – said by a real, live teacher. One that teaches kids.

Cue record screech. I immediately snapped to. I wish I could tell you that I questioned this teacher’s perceptions. I wish I could tell you that I pointed out to her that the very statement she meant as a huge compliment was in itself sexist. But I didn’t. I muttered something along the lines of “She’s always been a natural at math,” and something about “number sense.”

My daughter doesn’t think she’s good at math. She thinks it’s her worst subject.

We’ve tried to remedy this. We’ve tried to give her confidence in all areas and avoid the trap of focusing primarily on her beauty. We try to shine a light on her strengths as much as we can.

But I worry it’s not enough.

I worry it’s not enough because in spite of what we might say or the encouragement we might offer, she’s receiving a message from all around her that is much larger. She’s absorbing the myth.

The myth that boys are better at math and science. The myth that her brain is not built for science or technology or engineering or math (STEM).

It’s an idea that has been around for centuries. That nature (gender) determines a person’s cognitive strengths or weaknesses. That girls are better at reading and writing. Boys are naturally better at math and science.


Researchers are speaking up and coming out against these misguided ideas. Scientists have refuted what they are referring to as junk science or the  psuedeo-science of neuro-sexism.

There is no difference between the brains of girls and boys. There is only individual differences. These are not based on gender. Or race. Or social class.

Signs are pointing to nurture playing a bigger role in girls’ attitudes towards STEM.

Girls often start off liking math and science. In elementary school 66% of girls say they are good in math. By high school that number drops to 18%. Girls are not showing up in STEM in high school and college.

And that is a problem.

According to recent studies, confidence is key when it comes to girls pursuing math and science.

Some factors that affect girls’ confidence in these subjects:

The soft-sexism of low expectations: The attitudes and assumptions of parents. Of teachers. Without even realizing it we are perpetuating the false notion of girls’ weakness in these subjects. It’s in the things we say to girls (as evidenced by my daughter’s well-meaning teacher). It’s pervasive.

In studies, teachers have shown a bias in how they grade students in math based on gender. When asked to indicate their gender on tests, girls are shown to score 20% lower. Teachers have been shown to discourage girls from pursuing higher levels of math and science while encouraging boys. When girls’ grades are lower they conclude that they are not smart. And what people think, especially people that girls look up to, influences the way girls perceive themselves.



(My daughter’s school inexplicably took Science out of the GT program and replaced it with Language Arts. Baffling considering that STEM job growth is outpacing the rest of the economy by 300%).


The Politeness Trap. Girls are taught first and foremost to be good. To be polite. And yes, boys are often taught these lessons. But there is a premium on politeness in girls and being sweet and “lady-like” that teaches them to lower their voice, to not interrupt, to defer when someone else is talking. “Boys will be boys” is often cited as an excuse for behavior that would not be excused so easily for girls. Boys are taught to be bold, assertive, independent. If at times they are loud and interrupt, so be it. The result is girls being silenced or not heard. In the classroom especially.

Perfectionism. Girls in our society are raised to be pleasers. Our society has always looked to the women to be the nurturers. They will be the caretakers. Then there’s the pressure to look a certain way. How you dress matters. Looking cute matters. There is infinitely more pressure on girls in this area than boys. Boys don’t have to sit still to have their hair braided. Boys don’t have to worry about dirtying their cute outfit or losing their hair bow. This is so much a part of our culture that we don’t even realize that these things are being absorbed and registered by girls at a very young age. It is imprinting on their brains. It is affecting their sense of self.

Perfect has no place in math and science. Hand writing can be perfect. Speech and reading can be perfect. But math and science rely on failure. Trial and error. If a child is under pressure in so many other areas it is logical that the idea of “freedom to fail” is contradictory to everything else they learn. The “error” portion of trial and error or developing a hypothesis that may be proven wrong are antithetical to so many things that girls are taught.

(This video powerfully illustrates how we are doing a disservice to our girls every day.)


All of these things add up to girls hearing the message loud and clear. Science and math are not their “natural” habitat. All of these things should make you angry. We have been boxing our daughters into a corner of limited options by our willingness to buy into these prejudices. By our ignorance and obliviousness to all of the things we say and do, all of the things they see and hear, all around them, from the day they are born. This makes me angry. Angry at myself for not realizing it sooner. Angry that I have been unknowingly guilty of buying into an ignorant and outdated mindset. Angry that our society still operates under archaic assumptions.

It’s time to un-learn what we’ve been told. It’s time to pay attention to the messages we’re sending. We need to take the pressure off of girls to be “perfect” and “polite” and “nice.” We have to stop quibbling over whether “bossy” is a bad word and simply allow girls to express themselves loudly and boldly and without apology.

Attempts are being made to bring more girls to STEM. There are initiatives and campaigns directed at motivating girls and encouraging them. But I worry that this will be a whisper under the roar of long held ideas about gender and socialization. Confidence is key. The question is how do we unlock it? 

What obstacles do you think stand in the way of girls pursuing STEM subjects and careers? What are your personal experiences with science and math? What do you think can be done to change this trend?


116 Responses

  1. One of the more rural schools here had a program that girls were graduating HS with their Associate’s Degrees in fields geared toward STEM. I wish that was more prevalent in all areas and not just the ones that are viewed as “disadvantaged”(though I am very glad they have it first).

    If I had stayed in school and not had M, I would have pursued a career in chemistry or chemical engineering. I wonder what it would have been like 20 yrs ago vs now.

    1. I have seen a few programs as well. At our Middle School there is a technology club for girls that I’m really excited about once my daughter gets there next year. I think we’re definitely headed in the right direction with all of this. I love that there’s awareness and programs starting to emerge. What got to me as I was researching and writing this was how subversive the mindset is. I have actually caught myself on a few occasions this week almost saying or doing something that buys into this mentality! (And I too am glad that the disadvantaged school is the first place to get that program. It seems like where I live it’s the opposite.)

    2. I have an acquaintance whose mom got an AA in computer science back in the day, when it was still a vocational thing. That AA and a lot of certifications paid for by her employers have provided her a very nice (and independent) income as a technology auditor for her entire professional life.

      Re-thinking what “Vocational” means is a big part of this.

  2. I agree that way more of it is nurture. Because of my speech pathology background, we’ve learned about gender differences in language ability. Girls learn more words, specifically more emotion words, earlier, while boys are behind until about age 6. Note that kids’ expressive language is all about their receptive language; parents teach their girls more emotion words and play games with them that involve language rather than physical behavior (if you play catch with your son and puppet show with your daughter, who do you think will use more language??)
    AGE SIX, though. That’s where the gender differences stop, language-wise, and most of the 6-year-olds I know haven’t fully internalized the boys-and-girls-are-different mantra we put upon them. So I agree with you that our culture relies too much on that assumption of biological difference.
    As for STEM, I’ve never been particularly interested. Of course, I’m saying that as someone getting a B.S., but I also didn’t realize how much science was involved. To me, science and math are too black and white. Yes, there’s trial and error and experimentation and analysis, but ultimately there are right and wrong answers. In English, there are fewer right and wrong answers. I’d rather flesh out my ideas in an essay, getting to explain my perspective, than take a multiple choice test. Is that because it leaves more room for the right answer, which is in line with your assertion of conditioned perfectionism? Maybe. Probably.
    I’ve never directly been discouraged from choosing a STEM field, but I haven’t been directly encouraged either. That may be the ultimate gendered difference.

    1. Yes! What I had read in all these studies that the differences in children were minimal and short term. Yet we have allowed this idea to continue. And even with babies, like you say our cultural ideals are already playing in to how we interact with them. As a mom who was dead set against “typing” my children in any way, I look back now and see ways that I might have actually done the very thing I set out to not do!

      I have always loved Biology. I didn’t pursue a major in it when I got to college and realized how far behind I was in both math and science due to very bad schooling I had for Middle and High School (another blog post for another day!). So, English major it was. I don’t remember being discouraged or encouraged either when it came to STEM. But again, going to very poor inner city schools, the teachers were burned out and checked out. (and I honestly don’t blame them)

      1. As much as you can try to not “type” your kids and tell them they can be whoever, it’s extremely hard to completely avoid showing or representing ALL gender roles. They’re so engrained in us and everyone around us. The good news is that whatever their ideas about gender (or anything else in the world) is that you’re not the only factor playing into that–so if you have a “whoops” moment, it’s not a big deal. It’s when it’s reinforced by their peers, other adults, the media, etc. that sets in their beliefs.

    2. This whole thread is very interesting. English for me too, at the undergraduate level, and you are right about the gender differences. (As everyone knows by now) I’ve got a seven-year-old grandson. Have put a LOT of time in with him teaching him emotional language.

      As for the science being black-and-white and the the belief in right and wrong answers: science is not quite that black-and-white. It is not like math. Science is all about how you ARRIVE at the answer, when you come right down to it. With math, you do not have to show your work unless you are required. You just have to be right.

      To be properly scientific, you always have to show your work. I am a fan of scientific thinking, and I say there is definitely room for nuances in science. (I run my blogs in a fairly scientific manner, so I should know, hee hee).

        1. That is true, and that is the reason I washed myself out of the English graduate program I went into right after I finished my degree, then spent ten years working until I figured out that I am really a social scientist.

          Open-endedness, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. But it opens the door to all kind of silliness from people who do not understand concepts like intersectionality and intersubjectivity, which has kind of been my whole point all along.

    3. Many parents discourage a girl’s interest in STEM when they criticize feminists, women “who think they’re so smart”, etc. Girls from these types of conservative families (these families compose a significant percentage of the American population) won’t sign up for STEM subjects even though many of them are interested, but they aren’t allowed to do what the boys do. STEM skills should be offered in ‘stealth’ mode, included in fashion design and art (using math & geometry), so that every girl gets some STEM foundational skills.

  3. This is such an important post. Parents of all girls need to memorize it, parents of boys need to read it…it applies to all of us. Thank you for very eloquently waking us up.

    1. Thank you so much! It’s alarming how much I’ve realized this mindset has creeped into my own way of thinking and parenting. And I’ve tried to be very aware and raise all of my children the same. I caught myself at a Kindergarten field trip yesterday (at a Science Museum, no less) falling into the trap. One little girl in my group was so sweet and quiet and I found myself allowing the boys to direct where we should go next because they were louder and more demanding. Once I realized it I changed course and allowed her to speak up. But honestly, I can see how teachers might fall into that trap. I was wiped out after only a few hours of navigating all of that. So yes, reading the articles and studies that I read to prepare for this really opened my eyes as to all of the little ways I am perpetuating this phenomenon!

    2. Thanks so much for joining in! And yes, an important post here. It did almost not get published because our schedule got out-of-whack for a bit. I am glad it did.

  4. Thanks for opening up discussion on this topic. You raise some great points!

    My eldest is in 4th grade, and in possession of a great sense of numeracy and an instinctive understanding of mathematical problem solving. But, like your child, she until recently believed she was “no good at math” and would tell us she “hated math.”

    One of the smartest things we did for her was show her – away from the worksheets and fact-practice video games her school uses – how much math she uses every day, without thinking about it. How she divides up a pile of marshmallows fairly with her sisters for cocoa. How she figures out how many 25-cent extra chores she has to do to earn enough for the claw game at the arcade. How she doubles the flour and sugar when we make pancakes for a crowd.

    We also used Danica McKellar’s wonderful book, Math Doesn’t Suck, to show her a strong, beautiful, and fun female role model who loves – and excels at – math.

    Sometimes I wonder if one of the problems is not simply gender bias, but also ignorance – on the part of teachers AND parents – of how math and science are used in the real world. My super-bright husband was told throughout elementary, middle, and high school that he should become an engineer because he was good at math and science. It was as though that was the only career people could think of for a kid good at STEM subjects. I got the same advice in high school.

    And just a few weeks ago, when my eldest daughter’s math grades improved because we had changed her attitude toward the subject, her teacher said “with these new grades and her love of science, we might just have a future engineer on our hands.”

    AGH! I want to see boys, girls, teachers and parents with a better understanding of all the many many many careers strength in STEM subjects can open for kids. Maybe that would help, too.

    1. There is so much I love about your comment Katey! First, I am going on Amazon right now and buying that book! Second, I absolutely think the way these subjects are taught is so bland and off-putting. And unfortunately it seems the teachers don’t have much wiggle room when it comes to how they teach them due to strict agendas and standardized testing.

      I think the focus on bringing more girls and minorities into STEM is wonderful, I’m so glad that there is a greater focus on it now. But before they are old enough to watch PSA’s and see the re-branding, we need to get to them. I think that’s what got to me most about all of this. And one of the articles I read did mention educating students and parents on ALL of the career choices for STEM careers. Some of these are still new options in our digital world and I know I’m not aware of all of them. Some of them I had never even heard of. My stubborn daughter, however, will hear none of it if she thinks it involves math. While she has an A+ in math, she still has it in her head that she’s no good at it! I guess I have my work cut out for me!

    2. Yes, yes, yes. I had the same experience as your husband, only I was pushed into writing. I could totally have been an engineer, and a good one. I probably would still have gone into the creative arts, but I did not have the choice. It was made for me.

      Good point about the marshmallows and the extra chores. Halves and doubles, and how to work the margins are important. That is what math is really for. I learned more math from the aperture wheel on the old-school film cameras than I ever learned in primary & secondary school.

      Thank you so much for joining in!

  5. My daughter is halfway though her five year vetinerary medicine degree. It is easily the toughest degree course to achieve a place on in the UK. It was the first to require A*s as a standard of entry, before medicine etc. You need Chemistry and Biology as an absolute at A*. And 90% of the vet school is female. There is no problem with girls achieving high science marks – rather the profession will become distorted unless the boys are encouraged to improve. At her school all the science prizes went to girls. It is a mixed school. And yet at her primary school the prejudice you express was very evident. Because she knew what she wanted from11 or 12 she just ploughed past it as many do. But if it hadn’t been for that early vocation she might well have been seduced away from science.

    1. Wow, that is impressive that the standards are that high! From everything I read the US scored among the worst in this area (girls attitudes and confidence in regards to math and science). And some of the most helpful articles were from The Guardian. It makes me wonder if the UK was on to this issue before the US. It seems like it’s only recently becoming a topic that is being looked into here. Of course, I have been out of school for decades so I might be wrong. Judging from my daughter’s elementary experience, I am discouraged. I have hope for her Middle School she’s attending next year.

      And isn’t it a shame that your daughter had to plough through the nay-sayers in elementary school? She must be quite tough and determined. I’m imagining you did a great job of instilling confidence in her!

  6. Thank your for this perspective. When I was in high school, I learned about the differences between the male and female brains in my Psychology classes. But I’m glad that my teachers didn’t seem to push me in a certain direction of what classes I should take. But I’ve always gravitated towards writing, foreign language, and literature.

    The stereotypes need to end. Women should be whatever they want, and not what society thinks they are only capable of. Women have such strict expectations, even in 2015, while men don’t have many. That needs to change.

    1. Couldn’t agree more Rebecca. And if we can remove some of those stereotypes we are less likely to see men follow suit – I look on with horror at the increasing male obsession with body image leading to the same bullying and eating disorders among young men that women have been victimised with for decades. After all as a society we can no more risk losing to anorexia or self harm the next Einstein as we can the next Curie.

      1. Video for male female behaviour alice roberts tv youtube▶ 3:01
        3 Dec 2014 – Uploaded by VEA Australia – New Zealand
        Dr Alice Roberts and Dr Michael Mosley investigate the latest neuroimaging techniques and … Have a look at this clip. It was a fascinating programme which seeks to explain some differences. But… Even if there are differences there are NO reasons to discriminate or subjugate either sex. And given the historic imbalance in our behaviour towards women we do need to see the pendulum swing back to neutral.

      2. That’s a good point. Our society’s obsession with body image is dangerous for both men and women. I hope that in the future there are some positive changes. There is so much focus on our image, and it’s unhealthy. It’s caused many issues that you point out in your comment. I hope that these issues are addressed more in society and hopefully fixed.

      3. Geoff, you are so right. We have done a post before on Female Body Image in our Feminist Friday series, but it is becoming increasingly more of an issue for boys as well. My son actually said a few years ago (he was maybe 10 years old) that he was trying to lose weight. I had just had a baby and probably had been griping about trying to lose baby weight. It stopped both me and my husband dead in our tracks. We had a nice long talk with both him and his sister. But our society’s focus on the physical is so incredibly harmful and destructive. And it’s scary.

        And neutral with regards to the pendulum with gender issues, wouldn’t that be a great place to be! I absolutely believe that this issue affects boys as well. How many boys are teases because they want to be a nurse?

        1. Hi Gretchen. Mine is now 25 but he’s suffered with that obsession as has his younger sister. His hair style, his chest hair (it’s lack and then shaving it) his lack of a beard by 22, and plucking his eyebrows. He eats protein shakes (they are o stodgy i doubtable drinks them) and is forever tightening his ‘guns’. On the upside he has never smoked, never drinks fizzy drinks and moderates his alcohol. I believe him (but I’m his dad!) when he says he doesn’t do any drugs though I’d be more concerned about EPO and steroids than cocaine or Mandy or etabs. Mostly he wants a fit healthy body but everywhere he goes there is the pressure. And that’s before I gravitate to my daughter and her pressures. How did we let this happen?

    2. Yes, Rebecca, it absolutely needs to change. And I think one of the hardest things to change is a mindset. It takes people (in this case parents and teachers) constantly monitoring how they communicate with children. And paying attention to the messages they are subconsciously sending. I love that there are campaigns to encourage girls, but I think it needs to change at a basic level too.

      The video is interesting. I think studying an adult brain can be flawed due to a lifetime of influences. Influences that make us lean towards one subject vs the other, therefore engaging our brain more in those activities. (I would like to see more, but it seems the video cuts off mid sentence). And I think for every girl that is naturally inclined to play with dolls, there is a girl that is more inclined to play with cars and trucks. I know that’s how I was. I had no interest in “girly” toys. My two daughters have had dolls and doll houses and kitchen sets along with blocks and Legos and cars. They gravitate towards the “boyish” toys. My Kindergardener has been teased by other girls at school for wanting to play the “boy stuff” and they exclude her because of it. It is the classic chicken vs the egg, isn’t it? And that kind of debate has always fascinated me to no end!

      And you’re right. It’s crazy that in 2015 these stereotypes are still holding up and limiting girls. And boys for that matter!

      1. I completely agree that we should be encouraging girls to do whatever they want at a basic level. Gender roles continue to be so rigid and a part of our culture. Like you said about the stereotype that all girls play with dolls, I also wasn’t very interested in dolls. I didn’t necessarily play with “boy” toys, but I was more interested in make believe and games that involved animals and more gender-neutral activities. I also enjoyed watching basketball growing up, and I don’t know if that’s viewed as a “boy” activity, but that was something I gravitated towards.

        I do hope that in our future we see changes with the way both boys and girls are taught. I hope there is less emphasis on rigid gender roles and that the population is taught to be what they want to be.

  7. G, I loved this, and it made my heart ache – my son is a builder, and has gravitated toward math and science. My daughter just recently stopped wanting to be a fairy when she grows up, and now wants to be a writer – and I have always supported what I thought were natural tendencies that were emerging, and that I would have supported them no matter what they were. But now I don’t know. It’s a good reminder to be more careful of the unspoken message you are sending.

    1. Thank you SH. It is so hard. I have tried to be so careful and to raise my kids to follow whatever their talents and interests are. And I have caught myself a few times this week alone almost saying something that goes against everything I just wrote here. A week ago I would have said the same thing and not have given it a second thought. But now I know to watch myself more closely. I can’t change the teacher’s attitudes or society as a whole, but if I’m aware of what my girls are up against I can damn sure counter-act it. I’m going to be on a mission with my older daughter this summer to turn it around. I’m determined to make her like math and science again! (could be a disaster. she’s stubborn and if she senses that I’m up to something she pushes back big time).

      But your daughter stopped being a fairy and now wants to be a writer? That might be the cutest and sweetest thing I’ve heard! Of course she wants to be just like her Mama, cause her Mama rocks! I know I always encourage my son to be an engineer or architect because he loved building so much. And to be fair I always told my daughter when she was little that she was going to be a Rocket Scientist. Now I tell him he’s going to be Secretary of State (he loves travel and different cultures) and I tell my daughter she’s going to be President of the U.S. I’m not above pressuring them to do great things. And wouldn’t that be funny if she was her big brother’s boss? (and I’m probably doing the whole parenting thing completely wrong.)

  8. Definitely more nuture. I grew up convinced I could not do math, because I did not especially like it and was encouraged to do the reading and writing to just about the exclusion of everything else.

    Got a job editing a newspaper in my early twenties. Had an epiphany one night as I was laying out the ads and sizing the photos (this was before publishing went digital). Realized I was doing geometry every day.

    Now, in my 40s, I work with stats all the time, but I barely passed college algebra with a D and took only the minimum science requirements because I came out of high school convinced I could not do that stuff.

    I’ll have more to say about the gender side of things after I think about this a bit and come back this evening. Great post, and good to see comments here already. I’ve shared it around a bit.

    1. You (almost) have me speechless! YOU didn’t think you were good at math? I honestly couldn’t be more surprised. When you get all analytical with statistics and metrics and … stuff… I have a hard time following but I’m always in awe and I try to learn from it a little. (Math is not my thing.)

      You actually remind me of my daughter. She is brilliantly talented with writing and creativity but also has the aptitude for numbers and breaking down how things work. She’s the person I call into the room if I’m having any kind of technical issue. She reads constantly and I can’t keep her in books. And I’m going to pursue the math and science side of things with her. Her school I think has fallen way short. They eliminated science from GT for god’s sake. So I’m going to look into some summer camps.

      The bottom line for me is that there is a whole campaign out there for girls in STEM. But no one is really challenging the status quo of the old way of thinking. These campaigns are directed at Middle and High School girls. By then I fear we’ve lost a lot of them to discouragement and believing they are no good at it. You say you struggled with math in school… sometimes it only takes one bad year of a subject to totally turn you off. And from then on you assume you’re no good. (I’m not saying this was your experience, but it was mine and I think it’s fairly common) And with a subject like math, once you’re behind it’s hard to catch up. But girls, they are hearing these messages all the time. Every time they grade a girls’ test more harshly (that shocked me by the way) and every time the defer to the boys in the class (my daughter is always telling me that the teachers repeatedly call on the same boys). I think this attitude slowly gets to girls and makes them think they are less than in these subjects. The links I have in here are some really interesting reads. There were a few more but I had to edit… like I probably should edit this long comment. Sorry.

      1. It’s funny—we grew up in the same household, and I had those same kinds of feelings about math and science. I din’t think I was good at them. I still don’t. And my test scores showed, over and over again, that was right. Or something like that.

        On ACT and GRE tests, and on all sorts of standardized tests over the years, my verbal scores–reading comprehension, vocabulary, reasoning, writing—were well above anything math oriented.

        And some of that is natural aptitude, I think. I do have a penchant for words. But a large part of it, too, is that I was always convinced that I was bad at math—and I didn’t have good, encouraging math teachers as a child, either. That makes a huge difference. I remember being young and unable to do those timed math tests well, and from then on I was convinced I was bad at math.

        I didn’t bother to take a math class my senior year of high school (already had all the credits I needed), even though I’d made an A the year before in geometry and trig. And I only took 1 math class in college, the required college algebra class my freshman year.

        Science, too, was something I was convinced I wasn’t all that good at, but the truth is that I was a wiz at biology–so much so that my freshman year bio 2 teacher tried to convince me to major in biology. But I was determined that I couldn’t do it, and so I didn’t.

        1. I was very much the same way Diana. I was convinced (still am) that I was no good at math. I think math is so tricky because if you get behind just one year or struggle with a particular concept, that can affect you for so long since math tends to build on the skills you learn. The funny thing is all of my math scores on standardized tests were pretty good, almost as good as reading and verbal.

          But science and Biology I loved. I was lucky that I had a remarkable Biology teacher in high school. In a school that was full of teacher’s who’d given up or checked out, he was the one who was still engaged and made it exciting. All of us who were college bound (and there was only a handful) flocked to his classes desperate to actually learn something.

          And my daughter has always loved science and was so excited for Science this year in GT because they were going to do cool experiments and dissections. Then they decided to take science out of the GT program. ???? She was devastated. Now she says she doesn’t like it. She’s bored because she’s having to sit through all the stuff she learned last year in GT science all over again. Aaarrrggghhh!!!! And the things she tells me? The way the teachers tell the girls they’re being rude when they speak up but then continue to answer the boys who speak out? It’s made me want to go up there and say things I’ll probably regret. I am constantly on the verge of going to school and talking myself down. The thing is, the dynamics at school and with teachers is so influential. And I honestly don’t think she has any bad teachers. I actually like them all. I’m certain they don’t realize they are doing these things…

      2. Haha. Yes. Get her into the Math and the Science. You are doing her a disservice if you have the ability to do make up for where the school falls short and you do not. The Math and Science is where the money is. Making it big as a creative person takes a lot of talent and a lot of work, but even if you have everything you need to play the game, a best-selling novel or your first gallery show is about as likely as an athlete getting to be a starter on a professional sports team.

        And you know long comments don’t bother me 😉

        1. Very true. Art is her passion, but she can always do art. Just like writing is something most of us do on the side and if it turns into something big, great. I did get her a digital microscope for Christmas and I’m going to get online today to find some science and math camps.

  9. This is a real eye opener.

    High school students are very gender specific in terms of how they perform on standardized test. Boys typically do better in math, and girl in the reading and writing.

    I really thought it was just a reflection of their natural cognitive abilities. Now, I wonder if it’s all just a product of subtle brainwashing.

    Great post, Gretchen. It gives me a lot to think about, especially in terms of my own son.

    1. I am so excited that you read this, I know this is your area and I know that you’re passionate about it. I have observed a lot this week while writing this. Hell, yesterday at the Kindergarten field trip I witnessed some of this type of “brainwashing” in front of my very eyes. I probably wouldn’t have noticed it before. And at one point I was the one who was paying more attention to the boys in my group who were louder and demanding my attention (in the cutest, sweetest way possible) but I realized that the little girl who was soft spoken was getting bulldozed. I had to stop the group and see what she wanted to do. (Free reign in a large Science Museum with five five year olds in my charge… it was stressful and scary).

      And it’s given me a lot to think about with my older daughter. She read this before I posted it and immediately started giving me examples at school that supported these theories. Some of it was INFURIATING.

      1. My kid loves to read, but he really gets excited for science and math. He actually hopes to attend a specialized high school for science and technology. I hope I didn’t do that.

        Gretchen, so much about our education needs to change. I’m working on a post about it, but in true Samara fashion, it takes me weeks to push out a post.

        I love that you take on these kinds of topics. xoxo

        1. Oh, that is so cool if he gets into that high school. My daughter would love that. She just wants to be challenged. Even if you did do that, he will only benefit from it. He will always have reading. But a school like that would be so exciting and give him so many opportunities. And I can’t wait to read your post about education. And I so relate to pushing out a post. Sometimes it’s like giving birth, isn’t it? This one was painful. It just wasn’t working and was so disjointed. I rewrote it three times and pretty much did nothing else this week. And I was not easy to live with while writing it. ..

    1. Laurie!!! I just realized you left an amazing comment on my other post! I remember reading it late at night and laughing out loud and you mentioned you were working on a book? That is so exciting! Sometimes if I see a comment and it’s at a time where I’m not near the computer I forget about it if the comments have died down! I’m so sorry! But I so appreciate it, and I wanted very much to respond! I’m glad you’re here!

      1. you are amazing ##! I completely 100 percent understand !!! you are a gifted writer and proved such amazing content and insight . Yes ! oh the book…. a lifelong project 😊😆☺

  10. I don’t know what the answer is to getting more females into STEM fields (other than, obviously, these things start at home), but this post has made me even more grateful to my mom than I already was. I was never told to stop exploring or building or tinkering. I was never told I was good at math “for a girl.” I just knew I loved math. And I never hesitated to pursue a degree in math…well, except for that small swerve into chemistry I did for a bit. 😉

    Having been a math teacher for several years, I am heartbroken to read what your daughter’s teacher said. That is, in my opinion, an inexcusable attitude for an educator. 🙁

    And now I’m pondering what role I can play in encouraging equal opportunities and skills of the genders in STEM. Of course, I teach Grace (my stepdaughter who I home school) to play with math and science, but her true and natural inclinations and passions are for music. I certainly wouldn’t want her to abandon her love in the name of creating a Mini-Me. 😉 Still, I’m thinking there must be something I can do to actively improve the perception of females in STEm. I’m off to research! 😀

    1. Good, good, good that you are pondering the role! And thank you for reblogging this.

      I almost suggested to Gretchen that she look at some of your educational-type posts in an earlier comment.

    2. You know, I did like her teacher. She was a really engaging and supportive teacher. I honestly don’t think she heard herself say it. I think that is the crux of the problem. I think that so many of us (as parents and as teachers and as society in general) have absorbed this mentality. And it’s going to come out in subtle ways that we don’t even realize. And when I was talking to my daughter about these things this week, she pointed out that her teacher is always telling the girls that they’re being rude when they speak out but will continue to allow the boys to do so. I truly think she’s probably just taking the path of least resistance. It’s not an excuse, but I don’t think her intentions are bad. But, it’s unacceptable at the same time. I honestly don’t know how you teachers do it. And as far as the perception of women in STEM, I didn’t know about all of the women throughout history who played critical roles in this area, not until I was reading up on it this week. This NEEDS to be in the curriculum.

      And, at Gene’O’s suggestion, I will be cruising your blog to read up on your education posts! 🙂

  11. I answered as many as I could here, Gretchen, but calling it a day on the thread action. This is a good, good, good discussion right here. If a couple more regulars show up and hit the thread this weekend, who knows where this might go?

    This is a nice mix of bloggers commenting, and I recognize them from so many different places.


    1. Thank you for answering on the thread! My afternoon got co-opted by kids and now I’ll be away from the computer til late tonight. I’ll pick up here in the morning. And thank you for promoting this and sending so many people here! I’ll tweet and share again tomorrow too! Great thread going!

  12. When you see this, go ahead and delete this pingback. The reblog was throwing up a weird security error that would do you more harm than good when I clicked the original link, so I removed the reblog and took the links to the reblog off my social media.

    Not sure what happened. Not having this problem with the other reblogs of this post.

    Also, I have reblogged an entirely different thing and this did not happen. Probably a glitch. Doesn’t feel like a real security problem, but that Just Gene’O link is deader than dead.

  13. The summer before teaching fifth grades, I read an article about how girls are not given an opportunity to even answer questions or come up to the board to solve math problem because teachers call on the boys to do that. In doing so, it sends a very subtle message to girls that the boys are better than they are at math and science. They end up not trying and before long the boys get ahead of the girls in these subjects and girls stop signing up for them.

    I became determined not to do this to my girls. I made it a point to call on the girls at least as often as the boys, often calling on them before the boys. I also let all of the students know that math and science are about trying different solutions and that your first try is not always going to be correct ands that’sokayYou just have to keep trying until you get the right

    I don’t think that teachers call on boys more than girls intentionally. I think that teachers already have absorbed society’s preferences and prejudices. Unless they are made aware that they are doing this, they don’t realize it.

    Getting articles and staff development
    focused on this would do a lot of good. We have to keep bringing attention to this problem to get any change.

    1. I think you are 100% right and everything you said is exactly what I was trying to illustrate. I think most teachers and parents have the best of intentions. We have ALL absorbed the messages and assumptions that have existed in our society. The fact that experts for years supported the theory of neurological differences is indisputable. Of course we all heard that and bought in to it. And I agree that small things, like calling only on boys to come up to the board or answer questions sends a very clear, yet sublet message. And I love your idea of staff development and education on these subtleties and how to avoid sending these messages!

    1. Exactly! All of these women who were early pioneers in science are heroes. It couldn’t have been easy to do such things in those days. The persistence and fortitude of these women is awe inspiring. I’m actually looking online to see if there’s a good documentary that would appeal to my daughter (and my son) to watch about this. Other than Madame Curie and Sally Ride, most of these women’s achievements are absent from our text books. That needs to change.

      1. Did y’all watch the new Cosmos series with Neil DeGrasse Tyson? It’s AMAZING and so scientifically inspiring. But what made me think of it is each episode has an animated segment telling the story of a scientific pioneer. I wish ladies were a higher percentage, but several of the segments are about female scientists. Episode 8 in particular is about a team of (deaf!) ladies who were pioneers in astronomy.

  14. I read this, Gretchen, and it’s fabulous. I just kept saying yes and yes and yes all the way through. Our daughter is already showing similar “I’m bad at math” issues and I want to scream. I went through that my whole life, convinced I was bad at math because someone planted it in my head and said something like, but it’s OK you’re good at things like reading and writing. And I believed it – for a very very long time. But at the same time I believed I was bad at it, I liked it. But I told myself I hated it because I was bad at it…vicious cycle. Turns out I’m not bad at math. Like not at all. Managed to more than pass college statistics and grad statistics. They were hard, make no mistake. I worked my butt off for those. And I could’ve skipped at least the undergrad level because it was an elective. Seriously, why did an English major take THAT for an elective? I think I wanted to prove I could do it. And as it turns out, the grad statistics was required for my masters, so I was pretty darn thankful I had taken the undergrad one.
    I hate seeing my child decide she’s not good at math. How does a child who loves numbers and does math early and enjoys all things numbers and logic and all STEM-ish, for lack of any other term, suddenly become “bad” at math? She doesn’t. It’s a question of confidence.
    I taught for fifteen years and I have so many more thoughts on all of this. So many. But I’ve tried to read all the comments and my poor eyes are just so tired tonight. And our very welcome change in weather has done a number on my sinus headache. So I have to call it a night, but this is a terrific article and I will very likely be back tomorrow to read it again, remind myself to order that Math Doesn’t Suck book, and read all the fantastic comments in the discussion here.
    Best thing I read today. Seriously. Thanks for such an important and thoughtful post.

    1. First, thank you so much for your kind words. Second, your daughter sounds SO much like mine. I used to marvel at how she would chime in when we would quiz my son (who’s three years older than her) on multiplication facts. She just got it. And now she hates it. I know that we have always encourage her intellect and her affinity for math and science. It didn’t occur to me until I was writing this that other things could have been influencing her. Even when her teacher made that comment, it didn’t really occur to me that she could be saying the same thing to my daughter. I think if my daughter had been sitting there I would have made her clarify and set her straight for my daughter’s benefit. And now I’m feeling like I need to un-do whatever damage has been done to make her feel this way. And I would LOVE to hear more thoughts from you on this as a former teacher! Samara said she’s working on a post about education (and you know that will be amazing!) and Gene’O said I should check out Nerd In the Brain’s posts on education… and yes, I am going to get on Amazon today to buy that book! Thank you, Lisa.

  15. Kids should be encouraged to go with what ever they are good at and what they enjoy doing.

    Here (being Namibia, Africa) the government has decided that we don’t have enough doctors and such like people. They have thus decided to abolish other areas of learning and are practically forcing kids to go with Math and Science.

    There used to be technical schools offering other things. Technical school A would typically offer, farming, welding, woodwork & mechanics.

    Then the “girl” school would offer: cooking, sowing and typing.

    While some girls (not many) went to school A, the “girl’s” school was only for girls.

    So yes, there is loads of gender bias as to what career choices girls and boys are encouraged to peruse. Or there used to be.

    Now it is just forcing everyone to take Math and science – that is just wrong.

    Not everyone can do these things and there should be choices to do something else.

    1. Oh, wow. That is a step in the wrong direction for sure. How frustrating that must be for you and for all of the parents. The idea of forcing people into medicine related fields is pretty scary on many levels. I personally don’t want to have a Doctor who hates science! It sounds like the choices before weren’t very appealing either, but taking away choice all together is disturbing!

  16. Reblogged this on DragonflyLady's Writey Ramblings and commented:
    My daughter is 11 years old and started intermediate school in February. She is having a lot of maths homework every and she’s struggling. I think more with the ‘having to do homework every day’ after 2 terms of no homework (thanks year 6 teacher!) than with the actual maths part. Because I *know* she is good at maths. I can’t wait for her to go to the robotics lab at her school and hear what she gets up to!

    Let’s not compartimentalise our children! KIDS are good at science and maths and technology!

    1. Thank you so much for reblogging this! So, our daughters are the same age. Next year my daughter will go to Middle School and I have high hopes for her there. They have a Technology club just for girls. And the technology teacher is a woman and really wants to encourage girls to pursue these subjects. I’m hoping that the new school with new teachers will change her mindset and renew her interest in math and science. And the idea of compartmentalizing our children is just so disturbing! But it’s what we’ve been doing here in the U.S. for a long time (albeit subtly.) But the flip side is that boys have been teased or discouraged from pursuing careers that are considered “feminine.” All of this impacts boys too. The biases go both ways. And I agree with you, all kids are likely good at these subjects. They all have the potential to be good at them. Especially these days, when kids are exposed to technology so much earlier.

  17. When I was a girl, I was one of those who was told early, before I even tried, that math and science were hard. Too hard for me. Not by my parents, who told me I could do anything, but by the society I was in. I was pushed into arts, and drama – no “real” academic classes until college. College! And only then because I “had” to take them.

    I took Biology and loved it. I took Chemistry and loved it. Algebra, Social Studies, Psychology… it was all fascinating. But at that point, I thought “well, it’s too late to start now…” and majored in a “soft” degree, Foreign Language. I regret that I didn’t attempt to challenge myself more.

    Now I am a kindergarten teacher in Japan, and I am *always* trying to groom the myth out of my students. It may be a country across the world, but those gender myths are just as real here (women still feel finding a husband is the most important decision they need to make in life). It’s been truly interesting to see how the boys and girls change in my class. Boys who aren’t shy to pick pink or do art; girls who can play with dinosaurs or try the “hard” worksheets.

    Wonderful post.

    1. Thank you so much! Your insight is so powerful, especially in regards to the culture there in Japan and how it affects the children. How wonderful that you are changing that for your students. Your own experience has made you much more aware and I love that you’re using that to change the world, one child at a time. We all need to do exactly what you’re doing. I’m trying with my three children. My youngest will ask me “is that a boy color or a girl color?” I try to explain to her that there are no genders in color. She gets mad at me and says that I don’t understand. And she gets teased by the girls in her Kindergarden class for playing with the blocks and trucks. I fear that her peers are having more influence on her than me!

      I am so sorry that you were steered away from these subjects, but I think it’s amazing what you’re doing as a teacher!

  18. I studied abstract math in university. I loved subjects like synthetic geometry and complex number calculus. Trig identities were one of my favourite things in high School and I couldn’t do enough integrals first year. I’d love to say that I didn’t encounter racism and sexism in my journey but it’d be a lie. I do love math but today I can see that I took it in university to see if I could succeed at it, in spite of the disbelief around me.
    I think the most exciting thing about discussions like this is the fact that we’re aware of our issues and we’re talking about them. Thanks for the exciting conversation guys!

    1. I am appalled that anyone would encounter racism and sexism while trying to get an education. (or any time for that matter) And even though this is the very subject I wrote about, any time I hear a story like yours it is still shocking and upsetting and most of all frustrating. I do think awareness is the most important thing right now. I think there’s so much underlying prejudice that people honestly aren’t aware that they are engaging in. Of course there are the overt prejudiced bigots, but this post is more about those subtle and subversive ways that those prejudices affect students. You’re not the first person here to say that they took higher math just to prove that they could, and I love that. I love that fighting spirit, that defiance to the status quo!

  19. This is an awesome post, Gretchen. I particularly liked what you said about the “soft sexism of low expectations.” It’s so hard to convince people that this is sexism whether they mean it that way or not. They think because it’s unexamined, it must be “natural.”

    I happen to love the humanities and I’m happy that’s where I ended up, but I never thought I was good at math and science. My parents always told me I just had a mental block and should just do it, but that made it worse because I’m a contrarian and I was already so frustrated with it that them telling me I didn’t have a problem just pissed me off. In upper high school I spent an entire semester ADORING a chemistry class, but spending the whole time downplaying my teacher and classmate’s compliments because I “wasn’t good at math and stuff.” When I got to college and had no choice but to take math, it turned out to be just fine — and actually quite fun. I’m not sure where I’m going with this other than “it’s complicated.” There’s a difference between affinity and ability. And, going into the museum field, it turns out the humanities and the sciences aren’t so separate as they seemed when I was young. You really do need basic math and geometry. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to enjoy and benefit from STEM education.

    1. Oh, you sound like my daughter, Hannah! I have to be so careful with how I approach this because she can be stubborn and defiant. And I think that is an excellent point, about the difference between affinity and ability. Some people are more inclined to certain subjects (and it has nothing to do with their gender!) but almost everyone has the ability to learn. It is definitely complicated. Every one has their own strengths and weaknesses and experiences and influences and perceptions. It is hard to narrow this issue down to any one thing that decides a person’s confidence in these areas. And maybe the idea for some is that you DO have to be a rocket scientist to enjoy STEM subjects. I think I always had that notion and that could be part of what keeps people from attempting and enjoying them. Maybe that should be part of the campaigns that are out there, there’s room for the “non-rocket scientists” too!

      1. I think it should be! I definitely thought you were either “a scientist” or “everybody else” and “everybody else” didn’t need to know science-y stuff.

        I hope you and your daughter find something that works. Honestly, I think for me it was having a non-parental teacher. I was homeschooled, but we took outside classes. I mentioned loving that chemistry class, and then in college I did perfectly fine in all the math classes I took. (Two remedial classes because I took the wrong one first and had to retake a same-level class, and then the usual required ones.) I’m the sort of person who was NOT going to enjoy something after I’d told my parents I hated it, but also the sort of person who was NOT going to do badly on work I had to turn in to a real teacher. So, I basically had no choice but to approach my homework with the attitude of “I will figure it out and I will do it and I will turn it in for a perfect grade so help me,” without cultivating that mindset on purpose. And once I realized I COULD, it was really fun. I definitely think what you said about failing is important there… I do NOT like getting wrong answers, so when I didn’t understand I felt like I failed and I didn’t want to feel that way again so I didn’t want to do the work, and it just spiraled downward. I wish I had better advice for non-me situations, though.

        1. Yes. You and my daughter are like minded. She will NOT under any circumstances admit she likes something after saying she doesn’t. Especially if I try to convince or persuade her. 🙂

          And I think the individual perceptions and individual issues with trying and failing and perfectionism just add to the confusion of figuring this issue out. It’s also worth noting that very intelligent and gifted children tend to be perfectionists as well, given that things usually come easy to them.

      1. I saw myself in the girl on the Verizon commercial. I’m a writer now; don’t regret it, but I’ve always loved quantum physics . . . the message needs to be heard. 🙂

  20. I honestly think that the reason people put this assumption about guys and girls out is because in the past guys have been the more interested in this role and the more devoted, possibly because girls (sadly) were kept confined to another. However, this doesn’t mean that girls can’t, if not be more, efficient in these areas. I do also happen to note though that guys are very “stone-like”. In this I mean is that they take some of the aspects of life differently than girls, so this could lead to the assumption of guys vs girls because they think that girls might have a hard time handling it.

    1. Yes, I think traditional gender roles contribute to the perception. And then add the fact that experts published papers that argued that girls’ brains weren’t cut out for math and science. It’s easy to see why this perception is a part of our mind set, even if we aren’t necessarily aware of it.

  21. As an FYI, I commented yesterday but my comment still says it is awaiting moderation. I think you missed it when you were clearing moderated comments! You might want to check in case you missed others, too. 🙂

  22. I’m not questioning anyone’s experiences on this thread, but I literally have never, ever encountered any gender bias related to math/science careers in school or otherwise. Almost all of my math and science teachers were women and it hasn’t been until I started reading feminist blogs that I ever heard about anyone suggesting girls “couldn’t do” math and science in this day and age. Students in my schools were given opportunities to explore math and science however they wished and there was no difference in what was expected of boys and girls..

    1. That is wonderful! How lucky you are to have had such a great experience in these classes. Part of the problem is that many girls may not even be aware that they have been discouraged. It is a subtle, underlying mindset. One that was written about and had experts touting the differences between girls and boys brains. This was popular theory for many decades. Scientists actually reported these findings, based on what they are now saying is junk science and flawed and very weak studies. But because their theories were already supporting traditional gender roles no one questioned it. Until now, that is. It’s shocking that this idea that women’s brains were actually different than men’s was accepted in our modern age. And these studies, that show different math scores based on whether the teachers knew gender or not (and many others) are also shocking! I just found a page for Girls In Stem on Huffington Post that had many articles on the subject and they put out a survey and had women respond to sexism they experienced in these areas. It was disturbing to see the comments and explanations of what they experienced.

  23. Well written – and agree nurture has more to do with where we end up than nature in this regard. I work hard to make sure my girls aren’t specifically pushed one way or the other (we are still at the “you can like princesses AND superheroes” stage of the discussion, but I figure that’s where it starts).

    In my case, I come from a family of engineers, so was actually pushed into science and math from the start – enriched math and science classes straight through high school. It was actually Senior Chemistry that made me decide science wasn’t for me and my aptitudes lay elsewhere. That said, I had many girlfriends who did do science, and my gut tells me my youngest daughter might be math and science inclined – but it’s still to early to tell.

    I think the key is to not choose for my kids through decisions I make for them, but rather to let them choose. I think my parents did that well with my and my brother (who DID become an engineer, so we’re covered for this generation).

    1. I think family influence can definitely be the most important factor. Especially when your family was in that field. I think the fact that popular opinion and popular science actually supported the theory that girls’ brains were different and less apt to excel in math and science was so incredibly damaging and we will be un-learning that theory for years to come. And I completely agree, we shouldn’t choose and/or push our children into any specific specialty or subjects. I see my daughter who used to LOVE science and is so bored and discouraged since they took it out of the GT program (she’s having to sit through lessons she got last year) and I’m hoping that she will have a renewed zeal for it when she goes to Middle School next year.

  24. I have read through these comments over and over again. I can’t stop thinking about this whole topic. I think the biggest problem is that people discourage girls while encouraging boys without knowing it. It is not intentional.

    Growing up, I was always at the top of my class and participated in the precursor to what to day is called Gifted education (I grew up in the 60’s). I always did well in every subject, including math and science. Then I got to high school. My counselor looked at my grades and asked me if I wanted to go to college. I answered that I would like to but didn’t know if it would be financially possible for my family. He said I had been tracked for general ed but by my grades and school records, he could see that I should be in the college prep track so he changed my classes. Instead of taking basic math, he put me in algebra. It was a good move, however, it was also the year I was turned off to math. My algebra teacher seated all of the girls at the back and top (it was one of those tiered lecture rooms with the teacher at the bottom/front of the class). I don’t believe he called on any of us girls even once during the entire academic year. Not once. Not one of us girls. When we had a problem or a question and our hand went up, it was as if he didn’t see us (the room was also kept dark because he used an overhead projector to show how to solve problems). I never got any feedback on any of my work, other than my quizzes and tests marked up in red. I still managed to get an A- in the class but it left me feeling totally lost. I didn’t know what I had done wrong on the problems I had gotten wrong. That was the year I learned to hate math. The following year I was in geometry and that was great. I still think geometry is not math. Geometry is fun! Geometry is everywhere and we can see it and its usefulness. After geometry, even though I was college prep, I didn’t take anymore math. Only two years were required so that was all I took. The other two high school years I took electives. I did indeed get into a great school (shall we call it the Harvard of the west?) on a full scholarship and managed to get my literature degree without taking any math.

    Sometimes I wonder what I would have ended up doing if I had been in a different freshman algebra class in high school. Would I have continued to excel in math and science and gone into a different area of study?

    And I always wonder about all the other girls who were turned off to math by teachers like Mr. Elliot…the girls who may not have enjoyed language arts or languages or any other discipline. What happened to them if they were turned off from what they were good at and enjoyed by a teacher who ignored them and their questions and their potential?

    It’s all very subtle. So subtle that we may not see it for many years, until it might be too late for a lot of girls. Our daughters, nieces, and grand daughters don’t deserve that and our world needs to realize that we are losing a valuable resource when we turn our girls away from STEM disciplines.

    I know I will be reading and re-reading this over the coming days. It has really struck a chord.

    1. You know what? This comment got held up in moderation too! That’s so strange! But I’m so glad I found it! I really think you should write a post about this, about your experience. Your perspective and how this happened to you is fascinating. And the subtlety is why it’s allowed to continue. These types of discrimination are so hard to deal with because you first have to convince people it even happens. And so often we don’t even realize how it affected us until we look back. It is subversive. If you do write about this I hope you’ll let me know.

      1. I don’t think I was even aware of it until years later, when I was a mom with daughters of my own. Very difficult to pin down when it’s happening, unless we are looking for it and perhaps that’s why these articles and comments are good…because they will make us aware that we should be looking for this because it does happen…a lot!

  25. Technically, there are differences between the brains of the sexes. Females are more perceptive, with split speech recognition (left and right ears, vs. one with males). This can actually be a strength at learning math and science—which are learned skills. There is no proof that one is born stronger at STEM.

    So many things to think about, reading this.

  26. Great post. My youngest daughter excels and loves math and has not yet had the misfortune of educated people informing her that she cannot excel in math and should probably love the humanities and perhaps sewing instead. On the other hand, my other daughter’s teacher that felt it was okay for NFL players to beat their wives because they had concussions and so were sick and didn’t know what they were doing when they beat them, feels the need to single out females and tell them they are bad in math in front of the whole class. My latest trigger is female “dummies” who open their mouths and the words of the patriarchy flow from them as if their abusive father is still pulling the strings and controlling their life. My daughter breaks out in hives in this woman’s class. Again, great post, when you get the answers on how to stop this let me know. My entire life seems to revolve around fighting abuse and I am kinda tired.

    1. Ugh. I know you must be tired. You are a fighter and I love that about you. And this teacher? It is insane that someone who says these things is allowed to be around kids, let alone teach them. It is infuriating! And these women?!!! Are they masochists? I will never understand. I’m glad you keep fighting. Because the world needs people like you.

      1. Thank you Gretchen. I do think there is an element of masochism having been there myself, but it is good you do not understand, that probably means you are healthy. I keep fighting . . . again great post.

  27. I am sorry I am so late to this discussion! I am not reading all 100 comments, sorry 😉 However, my trust “find” tool tells me that no one has mentioned Frankenstein, MD. I think that seeing it in media is one of many important steps to helping with this.

    We have a child on the way. This sort of question feels urgently important to me. Great post 🙂

    1. Oooohh, I’m intrigued by Frankenstein, MD. That may be a show my daughter would like! And yes! The baby! The baby will be here before you know it! It feels like just yesterday my 14 year old was born! I hope you both enjoy each and every second and soak it up! It’s the most amazing fun you’ve ever had!

  28. I love, love, love your discussion about “freedom to fail.” That makes so much sense to me…and probably explains a lot of my own apprehensions about math growing up. I always felt the need to be perfect, and the fact that you can’t “finnesse” perfection in math always bothered me. You are either right or wrong. I see this in my own daughter as well, who already understands mathematical concepts better than I did…and do 🙂 I worry though that I am perpetuating this very thing you speak of every time I tell her she needs to wait for her dad to come home to help with the math homework. This post may just inspire me to try a little harder to figure out how I can help her first.

  29. Reblogged this on K.E. Wilkinson and commented:
    Today’s Daydreamer Challenge was to repost a blog that you love, and say nice things about it.

    I didn’t “meet” this blogger through the challenge, but of everything I’ve read this week, THIS needs to be passed along.

    Words matter. To rephrase an old song: Mamas (and Papas!) Don’t let your babies grow up to be princesses. Let them be scientists and physicists and mathematicians. Teach them to respect and know their own minds!

  30. As the mom of a daughter, I have struggled with this. We have always encouraged Andrea to do math and science, and she had an interest in science but she has always struggled in math. This year she has chemistry and it’s the hardest class she’s ever had. But she excels in English and art- it’s where her passion and talents lie. We’ve tried hard to avoid gender stereotypes, which is why I always feel guilty when I say that she doesn’t do well in math, because I feel like it’s that stereotype. But for this specific girl, it’s just not an interest or a skill she has developed. And it’s hard because I want to encourage her writing and art and design skills without feeling like we’re “settling” because she doesn’t have an interest in STEM. It’s so hard.

  31. Nah. Men and women both have different areas of the brain that are developed differently. Put under the same household and under the same kind of rigorous studying/training, boys and girls are different in nature. There are studies that supports this also. The idea that men and women do not have differing brains is stupid and anyone that believes that should probably get more in touch with reality, as they are nothing but day dreamers.

  32. I was fortunate enough to be accepted into a high school that focuses on mathematics and science (The Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science ––and I have to tell you, the professors seemed to be more inclined to think the male students were more adept to understand those subjects.

    This is definitely a mindset that needs to change.

    Also, check out my post on boarding school if you are interested in learning more about my experience:

  33. Perhaps it was because I live in a different region or because I am a part of the next generation, but I find that among students, it is actually assumed that females are much more intelligent than men. All throughout high school, I found myself fighting against the trend (as I am a white male) as I was much more focused on academia than athletics. All my upper level math classes had overwhelming majorities of girls, and the majority in nearly every other high level course were filled with women. At least from my perspective, it seemed obvious that girls were more likely to be in such classes. As I recall, I began noticing this in 6th grade, when I was selected to participate in a group of 6 students for a national Space Day competition, and only 2 were male, including myself. And I learned later it was going to be 5 and I wasn’t originally selected to participate.

  34. I agree. There is this backward idea that girls cannot succeed in science and math. The problem with that now is that if we try to encourage girls towards science and math, the desire to want to learn the subjects is no longer there. Maybe not so much that they no longer seek that knowledge, but the notion that someone will be doing the work for them. In a way, girls are okay with that. It is important that we teach girls that liking science and liking math is a good thing.

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