This blog is now retired. My new site is at: Predictably Irrational.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Girly Math

CJ will be starting sixth grade in the Fall.

I took a tour of her new middle school and it is NIGHT and DAY to her current elementary environment.

The middle school looks like a high school. A huge auditorium. A full sized gym. Three stories tall with a full-sized cafeteria on the third floor. Full sized lockers (she has no lockers now). An on-site school store. And this is all I saw on the inside.

The curriculum, naturally, will be different: she has electives now. We've chosen those although I don't recall what we picked other than she wanted to learn French, so she has French all year long.

CJ has twice been tested to enroll in the Academically Gifted program at her elementary school. The first time was during her third grade year and then this school year. Both times she didn't make it.

Her grades are well, especially in reading. Math has been good but we have spent some time with her, once, trying to figure out geometry issues...specifically, triangles.

I have always been good at math. I can't add or subtract worth shit, unless my fingers are involved, but give me formulas, or specifically trigonometry theorems to prove, and I was in heaven. It would take me a little time to figure it out now, but back when I was being regularly educated via school, I loved it.

I was in the more advanced math classes in high school. It wasn't easy for me. I had to work at it. I am not naturally smart, but I have a knack for working hard at tasks.

College? I tutored Algebra and LOVED IT. I would love to be a math teacher in another life. I majored as a Computer Science major with a minor in math. I almost double majored in it until I took a Number Theory class and realized that proving trig theorems is not the same as proving number theories. I begged my test scores from single digits to some kind of score that could get me as close to a D as possible.

But I pulled through and graduated with a pretty decent GPA.

How does this relate to CJ?

Tim received a call from CJ's future middle school. They told him, that although CJ's elementary school has recommended CJ move into the normal math course at middle school level, they found her EOG math score to be high enough for her to enter an advanced math course. They really would like to see her enroll in this math course, vs. the default.

We told her about it and asked her to mull it over. Tonight, I asked her if she thought about it. She said she thinks she would rather NOT do the advanced math class.

What do you think I thought?

It wasn't the same as CJ's thoughts. And I kind of got on my high horse about girls typically not being 'advanced' math species (no offense, but really, math girls are not as frequently available as math boys), that fear shouldn't hold you back on your potential, that hard work is hard work but what an accomplishment...something I am sooo proud of at 40 years of age: I did math all on my own. Most of my friends were not advanced math folks (girls and boys). I worked hard. I cried over it. But I did it. And I feel good about it, even now.

But should I put this kind of attitude on her? My instinct says no. But my head/heart says push her a bit because it's too easy for her to let it go.

What would you say, especially my gal pals who are math chicks? I am fortunate to be surrounded by so many strong, math-logical, girlfriends...but is CJ? And do you know at sixth grade if you are a girly math girl or not? Do I pressure/push her or do I let her be...?


  1. That's tricky, but I definitely think you should encourage her to push herself. Let her know that you believe in her. That she can do it! That her school thinks she can handle it. I think too many kids live far below their potential. Who knows what they could accomplish if they were challenged a bit more. Good luck to you and CJ! I hope she decides to go for it. I knew from an early age that I was a math girl, in part due to teachers and parents pushing me to explore my limits. Now that's a lot to write on the iPod. LOL!

  2. I didn't know that i was a math girl in 6th grade. I knew that i liked it, but i was an easy kid - i liked school all around.

    I did math mentoring for 8th grade girls last year, and the point was to just show them that it's cool to like math - you can grow up and get to be normal/cool and have a good life. Too often, girls somehow learn that it is not cool to be smart. I catch myself doing it sometimes, deferring to males or not being as confidant as i should. I think you've got a tough dilemma. My feeling would be to push/encourage her to try it. you and Tim know her best, though. What are Tim's thoughts? I guess the other side is that if she goes the normal track, she'll still probably get all the same math, if a year later. I am out of touch with what the schools are like now, but "in my day," the advanced classes had fewer goofoff kids and a more constructive learning environment. Don't know if that's a factor at all.