April 2, 2009

Science & Math for Girls

FINALLY some good news, everyone!

So, I have a sort of conflict of interests.

The girl I'm currently tutoring is a second grader. I've been wondering why I've been having so much trouble helping her read (I'm starting to suspect she might be dyslexic but I'm no doctor) other than just lack of interest...then I stumbled upon WHY the lack of interest.

She prefers math.

She prefers math vastly over reading. She's better at it. She wants to do it more often than read.

Now, after figuring this out--keep in mind I am a READING tutor only--I found ways to mix up reading and math. She's been doing much better with her reading, but I was curious about the math.

See, I do think there is something to the whole left brain/right brain thing. I had the exact opposite problem when I was her age and still do--loved reading, hated math. I can tell you being able to read has benefited me very well, but I think being better at math at a young, critical age would have saved me a lot of low grades and set backs in school.

So...I'm pretty excited that she's into math, if a little disappointed that it might lead her to abandoning the importance of literacy.

I think it's interesting that, again, at such a critical age she's more into math. I think it's good. Especially being a girl. Unfortunately, my kid's going to have to grow up in a society where, despite a closing gap, girls are still held as inferior when it comes to higher levels of science and math. It's pretty sad to think that once she gets past 3rd or 4th grade thanks to those damn outside forces she may lose her aptitude for math--or be told she should, because she's a girl and girls don't do like, science and stuff. Numbers are too hard!

Don't think that's true? Think again. I was reading this story via Pharyngula about Sheril Kirshenbaum, a scientist and now blogger with Discovery Magazine (she was formerly of ScienceBlogs). Unfortunately, her big welcome into the DM blogosphere included sexist, even imagist remarks because she so happens to be an attractive woman AND a scientist. I know, imagine the luck. It's pretty sad, read it here. If the comments don't make you LOL with grief I will personally tap dance for you.

Science is a boys game. Mathematics is a boys game. Despite evidence that this is just not true at all, boys will still be encouraged to do high levels of math & science and girls won't, just because boys are supposedly better at it. I took physics and my female teacher never seemed to give as much attention to the girls in the class--of which there were more of--than she did the boys, and I thought this strange and stupid. For most of us we were there because we wanted to be in the class, needed the class. That wasn't even the highest level of science available but it was just unfair to the girls in the class, several of whom did better than the boys.

It's bullshit. I was thinking about all this in the library today and just wondered why there had to even be a conflict. Why couldn't I improve her reading skills and still encourage her interest in math? Was I just bitter that scientific knowledge would get one ahead more than learning the classics? (If so, why am I taking a child down with me on my descent into binge-tea'ing) Why can't I do both?

I decided that I would do both, it's best. For one I'm doing my job which gets me paid, and that is IMPERATIVE, but at the same time, I want to show this young child that yes, you can do what you want to do and be good at what your good at. I suppose the downside is, I'm not her mother or guardian, I'm her tutor. Goodness knows what influence I may or may not have in her life down the road and whether any advice I impart will actually stick. I suppose I could leave it up to her teachers and counselors but fuck that because I never have and never will trust those shady folks in the Office. It's on me to start it.

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