I’m not planning to be a mathematician!

Does your child ask you why they need to work so hard at math if they are not planning to be a mathematician? How do you answer your child?

We get asked that a lot, sad to say by girls, more than by boys. Here’s how the discussion goes. Share yours in the Comment section below.

Student: “Why do I need to study so much math? I’m not planning to be a mathematician when I grow up.”
Instructor: So what are you planning to be when you grow up?
Student: I don’t know, but definitely not a mathematician.
Instructor:: Especially because you don’t know, you’d better keep working on your math.
Student:: Why?
Instructor: Because you want to leave your options open. What if you decide to be an Olympic gymnast, an entrepreneur, a football coach, a neurosurgeon, a pre-school teacher, a bounty-digger, a chef, a TV producer – you can bet your money they rely on math everyday.
Student: But you can just hire someone to do the math.
Instructor: And that’s what many people do. That’s why, if you know math, you’ll always have a job.

Even an actress, like Danica McKellar (The Wonder Years) needs math. If you have a middle-school daughter, give her Danica’s book: Math Doesn’t Suck: How to Survive Middle School Math Without Losing Your Mind or Breaking a Nail. It is sprinkled with testimonials of her friends, how they felt about math, what their careers are now, and how important math is in their work.

“We’ve seen girls perform similarly [to boys], but what we have seen also is that in high school, when we arrive and give them surveys about how they feel about math . . . they score worse. They feel more frustrated and anxious than boys,’’ said Ivon Arroyo, a research scientist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst who is working on the software being tested at Turners Falls, called Wayang Outpost.

“That may make girls not persevere as much in the harder problems.’’

Encourage your daughters to do well in math so they really can be anything they want to me. And don’t forget, share with us how you answer your child when he/she asks you why they need math.

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