Putting the “M” in STEM

Problem solving and critical thinking, having the confidence to ask questions and seek out answers, these are all skills we want to help girls build at Girl Scouts. Whether she grows up to become a mechanic, a neurosurgeon, a cosmetologist, or a stay-at-home Mom she’ll need to solve problems and STEM activities (science, technology, engineering, and math) give girls excellent opportunities to practice those important life skills.

One of the major building blocks of STEM is math. And yet if you ask many youth (and adults) they’ll tell you that they’re just not good at math.

So how do we change the way girls (and adults) experience math? How do we change the perception that women are bad at math and encourage our girls to love the dreaded “M” in STEM? Here are some awesome tips based on recent research to help get girls excited about math.

1. Start Young! Girls start losing interest in math and science during middle school so this is when she needs enrichment activities that make math fun. She can explore the world of fractions by doubling a favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe,  play online math games, and do hands-on experiments at a local science center or events like Putting the “M” in STEM that give her time to tackle math focused projects.

2. Show Her She’ll Use It! It’s almost impossible to get through a day without using math. We’re serious. We all use numerical and logical thinking every day. When we’re measuring ingredients to bake a cake, deciding what to buy at the grocery store based on our budget, or calculating the batting average of our favorite baseball player we’re using math and logic to do so. Point this out to your favorite girl the next time she’s using math without realizing it.

3. Encourage Her Work!  Praise her when she keeps trying to master a concept, especially when it’s hard. Having confidence in one’s ability and believing that hard work and effort can increase intelligence are associated with higher achievement in math and science among girls.

4. Show Her Math Is Helpful! Girls are typically more interested in careers where they can help others (e.g., teaching, child care, working with animals) and make the world a better place.Showcasing to our girls how mathematics has changed the world and can improve the lives of people, help the environment or make a difference will encourage them to explore these fields.

Need some help conquering a math anxiety? Check out this Tedx Talk from a high school math teacher for some great advice.

Math can be fun, useful, and it will continue to make the world a better place. And we need girls to be a part of that! So don’t delay, inspire your favorite girl to be a problem solver of the future by learning to enjoy math today.