A few weeks ago, I witnessed two women I know playing cribbage. At one point they had a little confusion while adding up their points. They laughed it off, each saying “oh, I’m not good at math.”
One of these women has a toddler daughter, who is one of the sweetest, prettiest little girls you have ever seen. Both are graduates of elite liberal arts colleges, where you have to have a darn good SAT score to get in.
I restrained myself from ranting at them, so I will rant here instead.
No mother of a little girl should blow off poor arithmetic/counting skills and claim to be “not good at math.” Would you ever claim “oh, I can’t read very well” as an excuse for driving through a stop sign? Or for missing the correct exit to get off the highway? Or for voting for the wrong candidate? What would you say to someone who used that excuse? How would you feel about that person, especially if you knew they had graduated from a highly selective college? Would you assume they have a learning disability, such as dyslexia? A reading phobia? Mental problems?
If you are not good at arithmetic (which is really what these women were having difficulty with), you can do something about it. You can practice. You can play math games. You can use flash cards. You can, in other words, exercise that part of your brain. And you SHOULD.
If you are not good at mathematics, i.e. algebra, geometry, trigonometry, calculus…well, you won’t need those much in most professions. But keep it to yourself and encourage your daughter to love and excel at math!
My mom is no mathematician. She was an English major at a small liberal arts college in Ohio. She never, to my recollection, claimed to be “bad at math” nor did she ever discourage me from doing math. While she didn’t take the more advanced math classes in high school (they were not required) and therefore couldn’t help me with math by the time I was in seventh grade and starting (for the first time) to need help with it, she has always been an excellent arithmetician. She can add up a score tally faster than I can, if we’re playing a game that requires adding points. She can balance a checkbook. She’s a very smart woman, with a very large vocabulary and a love of reading, and she can add, subtract, multiply, and divide without complaint, comment, or wimpy excuse.
Why is it acceptable for people (not just women) to shrug off this skill? At a time when government leaders are pushing for better math and science education, and when high school science teachers I know bemoan the lack of math skills their incoming students have each year (which greatly hinders these students’ ability to learn science skills), such excuses as “I’m not good at math” should absolutely NOT be acceptable. Especially in front of young girls who don’t get “humor” yet.
If you truly think of yourself as “not good at math,” you should do something about it! Especially if your kids are old enough to play math games with, you should actively compete against them in math games. You and your kids will both benefit.
Of course you should also read to your kids, play fun games with them, and teach them good manners and all that…but you should ALSO encourage them in arithmetic and math!