Tipping the Scales: Cultivating Your Daughter’s Interest in Math and Science
Educational research has shown that while many young girls excel at math and science, most girls lose interest or become discouraged by middle school. Here are some ways to keep your daughter's test tubes bubbling:
- Find role models. Most girls who maintained their interest in math and science through high school attribute their interest to a relationship with a family member or friend who was involved in science. Biographies of famous women scientists and mathematicians in diverse fields can introduce your daughter to a community of support and encouragement. (See below for book suggestions.)
- Validate her choices. Girls excel and show interest in biological sciences, but often do not appreciate that these disciplines are just as scientific as the hard sciences of physics and chemistry. Botanists, zoologists, marine biologists and geologists are all scientists. Encourage your daughter to think of gardening, taking care of animals and other related interests as scientific endeavors.
- Incorporate math and science into your games and activities. There are many fun experiments to do at home involving all kinds of scientific principles: Why do things float? How do magnets work? What is inside an egg? What are fractions? Exploring science and math through cooking, testing or just playing at home makes science accessible and relevant to your daughter's life.
- Break stereotypes. Most girls lose interest in math and science due to pressure to conform to certain social expectations. Encourage your daughter to get her hands dirty playing with frogs or exploring circuitry. Respond to your daughter’s desire to do science just as you would her desire to paint or play music, and congratulate her on achievements. Let her choose her own interests, and then pitch in to help her fix her bike or study worms.
The best way to encourage your daughter's interest in math and science is to share her interest. Encourage her to wonder why and how things work, then help her figure it out. Look for books of experiments and projects in the library. Play mental math games. If your daughter has interest in math and science, there is no reason for it to flag in middle school. With your encouragement and support, the only thing you'll have to worry about is radio parts or ant farms taking over your home.
By Nina Simon. As an electrical engineering student at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, she received the United Technologies Corp. & Society of Women Engineers Award. As a child, Nina's parents encouraged her interest in math and science with recipes, gardening and homemade puzzles. They also displayed a high tolerance for dirty hands and junked-up electronics.
Extraordinary Women of Medicine by Darlene R. Stille (Children’s Press, 1997)
Biographies of fifty notable women of medicine throughout history, including Florence Nightingale, Clara Barton and former U.S. Surgeon General Antonia Novello
Girls Think of Everything : Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women by Catherine Thimmesh, illustrated by Melissa Sweet (Houghton Mifflin, 2002)
Necessity was indeed the mother of invention. Ten women and two girls are featured in this collection of inventive solutions that made our lives easier, simpler and more enjoyable.
My Life With the Chimpanzees by Jane Goodall (Simon & Schuster, 1996)
The famous primatologist's autobiography is illustrated throughout with photos of her childhood and her years spent in Africa.
Scientists by Carlotta Hacker (Crabtree, 1998)
In depth profiles of scientists: Jocelyn Bell Burnell, astronomer; Rachel Carson, marine biologist and science writer; Dian Fossey, primatologist; Mary Leakey, archaeologist/paleontologist; Chien-shiung Wu, nuclear physicist. The book also includes shorter biographies of women scientists, their lives and achievements.
Stone Girl, Bone Girl: The Story of Mary Anning by Laurence Anholt, illustrated by Sheila Moxley (Orchard Books, 2006)
Taught by her father to hunt for fossils on the rocky beaches and cliffs near her home, Mary Anning studied, read and always pursued fossils, making a number of significant fossil discoveries in England during the first half of the nineteenth century.
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