Researchers have conducted numerous studies to figure out how to keep girls in the upper level math and science classes. They recognize that having fewer girls in the advanced classes translates to fewer women in math and science majors and careers. Here are some tips that parents can use to keep that interest alive.
Be involved as a parent.
Sometimes we forget to expect our girls to have an interest in math. Show a genuine interest in your daughter’s math or science class. Ask her about her class—what is she learning about? Ask her to explain it to you—and really pay attention. Often, the best way to learn a subject is to teach it. While she shows you her stuff, she’ll realize what an expert she has become. Make sure her math and science teachers expect her to do well, and offer her constructive feedback and encouragement.
Show the correlation between different interests.
Students don’t always realize the correlations between unrelated subjects such as math to music, or mysteries to science. Find out one of their interests, and see how it relates to an aspect of math or science. Does she love pets? What does it take to be a veterinarian? Talk with them about expanding their view, and seeing the opportunities awaiting them.
Let them make (some) mistakes.
One possible barrier to experimentation is that when students—especially girls—work very hard to behave, it can mean choosing the safe path, rather than trying something new. Mistakes are part of the learning process, especially in the sciences. Emphasize that figuring out what caused the mistake and learning from it are vital skills. As parents, we want our kids to be safe, but look for opportunities when they can safely experiment. It could be as simple figuring out how to drive a different route home or making up a recipe.
Encourage messiness in discovery.
Encourage hands-on learning at home, whether it is with kitchen chemistry, gardening or at home experiments. Let her get her hands dirty as she gets completely absorbed in the project.
Make the learning apply to the real world.
Girls are more likely to participate in an activity when they understand the relevance, studies show. Have your daughter follow the financial profiles of her favorite stores, or analyze and make recommendations for the family’s cell phone plan. Have your food conscious daughter look at nutritional components of her favorite snack foods, and how those nutrients affect her body.
Get some backup.
Find some great resources that help emphasize the coolness of math and science. Girlstart.com is an interesting website for middle and high schoolers with games, homework helpers and other sites that make math and science fun. Coolmath.com also has some interesting information and links. Look for math clubs and science camps that promote technical expertise and girl power. Check out the new book by
Find women in math and science fields for role models.
Help your daughter see the future by finding women already in the field. Whether it is by watching fictional characters like the investigators on CSI, or by reading about them in the news (check out Danica McKeller-- actress, mathemetician and author of the book "Math Doesn't Suck") or by finding local heroes in your own neighborhood, make an effort to show your daughter where she can go next.