I saw a card the other day that perfectly encapsulates the way that I feel about maths. It said:
“Everytime I see a math word problem it looks like this: If I have 10 ice cubes and you have 11 apples. How many pancakes will fit on the roof?
Purple because aliens don’t wear hats”
I think I stopped understanding maths at about the time my teacher got fed up of me not doing my homework. I admit it’s a little bit chicken and egg.
The worst part of my not being very good at maths, beside the fact that word problems make me feel anxious, is that no one thought it was too much of a big deal. Not my teacher, not my parents, not even me – if was assumed I would just never go into a field that required maths. Being the youngest of three girls who were not maths lovers it had been pretty much ingrained by the time I got to do my HSC – it’s okay if girls can’t do maths just try your best and concentrate on English !
It’s an awful attitude and although I have forgiven my parents I wonder if their attitudes would have been been different if they had been privy to books like those by internationally recognised mathematician and Wonder Years star Danica McKellar “Girls Get Curves: Geometry Takes Shape.”
Here's an excerpt.
"Math just got physical.
Look around— we live in a world of angles and curves. Geometry is responsible for the shape of the house you live in, the cars on the road, the shoes on your feet, and even the book in your hands. Diamond rings wouldn’t be nearly so sparkly without the study of angles, and your favorite dress wouldn’t fit nearly as well without the science of curves. But geometry does more than help us to master the physical world. Doing geometry— especially proofs— trains the logic center in our brains. And logic helps us stay clear and focused, which is helpful in all parts of life!
For example, imagine you and your brother are in an infuriating argument. Your emotions get the best of you, and you hear yourself saying, “You’re wrong because you’re just — wrong!” . . . which only makes him laugh at you. Or imagine an interview for your dream job, where the boss looks at you and simply says, “So, why should I hire you? You’re not as qualified as the other applicants.” Your cheeks flush as adrenaline shoots through your body. How do you handle it? Well, here’s where you could use logic to focus that surge of energy, charming her with a foolproof argument filled with passion and personality. But without that focus, you might get caught up in the assumption that she doesn’t like you, find yourself flooded with desperation, and end up blurting out, “Because I . . . I really want it. A lot. Please?”
Geometry can help."
Well. I certainly never thought about maths like THAT. And I am not sure how I would have felt being taught “maths for girls”. I agree with Danica when she says "Math is a language, and it needs translation" , I just hesitate when she says "and so I translate the math in terms that girls are thinking about, like popularity and boys and just things that are fun to read about"
What do you think? Should maths be taught differently for boys and girls?