(Long Island, N.Y.) You would think taking time out of your hectic day to sit down at the kitchen table and help your daughter with her math homework is a good thing, right? Well, maybe not. If she didn’t ask for the help, you just might be shaking her confidence in her abilities.
Can homework helping parents actually stifle a budding genius? According to a recent survey of middle-school girls, yes they can. Moms and dads who meddle with math homework, (offer unsolicited help) are not adding confidence, this new study finds, they are actually subtracting! The study, from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, (reported in the journal Sex Roles: A Journal of Research) reveals that girls are quite sensitive when mom or dad sit down to help with her “hard math homework”. Researchers learned, a girl’s self-confidence in math suffers when their parents believe the gender stereotype that holds that math is a male domain.
While the latest national research says that girls and boys are about equal in their abilities in math and science, the biggest gap lies their attitudes. Many young girls (and their parents) believe, math is a pretty much a boy thing, and girls just stink at science. Or aren’t really that interested. But just talking to a few 11 year olds, it’s not entirely true.
So how can parents encourage their girls to succeed in the so-called “boy subjects”?
There’s a great program to stir the interest and get girls excited about math and science. It’s from the sponsors of “National Engineers Week (Feb. 19-25 2006). They are encouraging schools and parents to participate in “Introduce A Girl To Engineering Day” (February 23, 2006) http://www.eweek.org/site/News/Eweek/girlsday.shtml
The idea is to get K-12 girls excited about math and science, and to subtract stereotypes (like the “nerd” factor) from these subjects. According to their site, women are severely underrepresented in the engineering profession. Research shows that girls and young women lose interest in these subjects and fields. They also offer tips and information for parents to help girls subtract the “nerd” factor.
They also report, less than 10 percent (9.8) of American engineers are women. That equals slightly more than two hundred thousand women engineers out of just over two million employed engineers.
Without solid math skills, young girls can miss out on top college choices, and exciting careers. So the idea is to take these two subjects and turn them upside down. To make them fun, accessible, even cool.
According to the National Engineering Week foundation,“Girl Day,” as it’s known among engineers, is one of the most crucial components of the EWeek outreach. Women engineers, with help from their male counterparts, are planning to reach as many as one million girls through workshops, tours, speaking engagements, on-line discussions and a host of other activities aimed at showing that engineering is an important career option for everyone.
Another excellent web resource to help girls get excited about math, science and technology is “Girls Go Tech” (www.girlsgotech.org). This site, sponsored by Girl Scouts of the United States of America and includes a booklet: “It’s Her Future: Encourage a Girl in Math, Science and Technology” that offers tips for parents. There are also some really cool, mind-expanding games to play like “Cryptic Codes” and a brain-game called “Mixed Messages”.
When it come to stereotypes about these subjects, we should all disregard Barbie’s first words: “Math is tough”. (Yes, the doll!) Stop whining Barbie–you’ll never get into medical school with an attitude like that.