Girls, Math and Science

This is a statement for the record.

I’m saying this now, because tomorrow I’ve got a related rant coming, and I want all of this to be firmly established.

There is absolutely no scientific evidence to support the antiquated theories that the female brain is less capable of math or science.

There is, in fact, a hell of a lot of evidence pointing to the contrary.

Gender is, by and large, a social construct. Little girls won’t know that they are not supposed to like math or science until someone tells them that.  

This is all very important to get out of the way, because people have been shuffling around the idea that “Math is Hard!” for girls since the 40’s.  It’s a bunch of hooey, and for the most part everyone except the people  populating the pink toy aisle understands that.

I want you to note, however, that it’s a pervasive sociocultural myth. That part’s important.

AK age 9

Now, regarding this rather silly photo I’ve added to a serious post.

That’s me in the 4th grade.

Let me tell you something about that little girl. She wants to be a biologist. Her favorite toy is a microscope, and she really liked dissecting worms in science class. She recently completed a project on sharks, and thinks Sea World is about the neatest place to go ever.

She likes going on plant-identification hikes with her mom. They memorize the things that help them remember what that new plant looked like and then look it up in North American Wildlife when they get home. She is already curious about foraging and survivalism, but that hasn’t gone much beyond the stuff in the yard her grandma has pointed out as edible.

She hasn’t read The Hobbit yet (that’s next year), so she still thinks reading is mostly supposed to be about horses.  Her favorite superhero is still Wonder Woman, and her favorite princess is Leia.  She has no idea how geeky she is, and has no idea how geeky she’s going to turn out.  No one ever told her math was hard.  No one ever told her she wasn’t supposed to like science. And when she stopped reading about horses and started reading about hobbits, no one said much about that either except to buy her a boxed set for Christmas and keep handing the girl books.

I read, I explored, and I soaked in knowledge as well as words.  I’m not the only one.

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6 thoughts on “Girls, Math and Science

  1. I have a problem with math, but that’s because I have a tendency toward dysgraphia (I’ll see a number like 241 and when I go to write it down, I’ll write it as 248 or something completely bogus – really screws me up when trying to do long equations…). I do, however, enjoy certain sciences. I got an A in college zoology and geology. I think it’s coincidental that most of the math whizzes I know personally are men (my husband and dad being the main two I’m thinking about), but I think it’s just who they are as people, not because they are male. Anyway, that’s my two cents on the topic 😉

  2. Oh AK what a great picture! I have a child photo of me floating around somewhere on wordpress, lol.

    This is so very well said, it really is a myth and I think there is so much oddity about our culture that places these weird gender stereotypes that fall apart if you give them any real thought.

  3. You were an adorable 4th grader. I strongly believe that how we grow and develop is more about the encouragement we receive than anything else. I just wish my mom had encouraged me with my writing when I was a kid (her favorite phrase was “If you spent as much time on your school work as you do on that, you’d get straight A’s”).

    Jokes on you, Mom, I’m about to become a self-published writer.

    Anyone who wants to study math, science, writing, or whatever else should do so. Who cares if you have boy part or girl parts? The only science those matter for is biology (ba-dum-pum-TCCH!).

  4. I saw that picture and thought, “Oh, she so would have been my elementary school bff! And then I read the part about sharks and hobbits and plant identification, and I KNEW it. 🙂 When I was little, we didn’t have much money and the only two kids’ books in the house were “Cinderella” and The Junior Science Encyclopedia. This is how I explain myself in one sentence to people who don’t know me.

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