parenting

How to Encourage Girls to Enjoy Science and Math

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Throughout school, I had an unrealistic fear of math. So much so that I decided to change my major in college from a Business Major to a Health Science Degree so I wouldn’t have to take the higher level math classes. I don’t regret getting my degree in Health Science as I just completed my Masters in Nutrition. But I wonder if I had a supportive counselor or teachers encourage me, I might have been able to overcome my fear of math.

Culture & Stereotypes

There are many stereotypes about girls and STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) careers. Recent studies show that the gender differences in math performance have more to do with culture than aptitude. For example, Mattel Toy Company showed some gender bias with a Barbie released in the 1990’s that exclaimed, “Math is hard.”  And President Barack Obama’s former top economic advisor, Lawrence Summers, then president of Harvard University, stated at an event in 2005 that males are intrinsically smarter than females in science and engineering. I did mention this was said in 2005 and not 1950!

According to the National Science Foundation (NSF) Research on Gender in Science and Engineering (GSE) program, they have found that in elementary school girls have about the same positive attitude towards science that boys do. In fact, a study conducted with fourth graders showed that 66 percent of girls and 68 percent of boys stated that they liked science. But something happens along the way because by the time these children reach 8th grade, boys are twice as likely to be interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) careers.

Mentor & Get Involved

So how do we as parents encourage our girls to like and even enjoy math and science? According to NSF Research, they state that parent and teacher support goes a long way in a girl’s interest in science, technology, engineering and math. Talking to girls about what careers are available in science and engineering and the importance of these careers in our society just might encourage more young girls to choose careers in these male-dominated fields. According to NSF, “One of the most effective interventions to help young women choose and sustain a STEM educational path and subsequent STEM career is mentoring.”

Some ways to encourage an appreciation for science are to do science projects together. There are many online resources that have age-appropriate projects you can do together, such as this one that provides free science fair projects and ideas for students:  http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/Intro-Math.shtml.

My daughter’s favorite birthday present last year was a science project kit that teaches children how to make science projects out of things you find around the house. In fact, as I write this post I am looking at her rock candy project she made out of water, sugar, a pencil, some ribbon and a glass that is sitting next to my computer crystallizing. Here’s to nurturing the potential scientist or mathematician within. Who knows what she can accomplish!?

How are you getting your kids excited about Math and Science?

Picture courtesy of flickr

Reference: Girls Get Math: It’s Culture That’s Skewed by Jeanna Bryner June 2009.  Posted in www.livescience.com

Melissa Northway, M.S. Human Nutrition writes storybook apps and books.  Her first storybook app, Penelope the Purple Pirate, is a about a feisty redhead who likes to have adventures with her friends.  She is currently working on a Penelope educational game in which Penelope declares that, “Math is fun!”  You can reach her at: [email protected], @melissanorthway and www.melissanorthway.com.  And make sure to stop by Penelope’s Facebook Page as she likes to hand out treasure! Melissa is happy to report that she is no longer afraid of math!

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