The First International Women in Mathematics Day

5/13/2019

By Zak Champagne, JPEF Director of Teacher Leadership

Important Note: All of the content in this blog post was inspired and influenced by my friend and colleague Chrissy Newell. Thank you for inspiring all of us to learn more about the incredible women in mathematics and to influence others to do the same. We are all better because of you and your work. Thank you.

Today (well, technically yesterday) is (was) the First International Women in Mathematics Day! I know that sentence probably doesn't deserve an exclamation point in your mind - but, in my head it does.

Let’s face it: math isn’t a favorite subject for a lot of people. But believe it or not, there is no evidence to support the idea that some people are naturally gifted at math and some are not. The research actually shows that our early learning experiences shape our beliefs about what we can and can’t do, and the more we teach children that they’re good at math, the more interested in it they’ll become, and the better they’ll be. It’s a virtuous cycle that we can influence.

And here is why it matters for girls. Our culture consistently communicates to our youngest women that mathematics isn’t for them. Just take a look at these t-shirts.

 

Our young women deserve to be told (and believe) that mathematics is for them. That they are good at it. That they can do mathematics, and they belong in that world. 

So today, and every day, I encourage you to tell your daughters, mothers, sisters, and friends that they are good at math. That they belong in the math world. And when they are doing math – encourage them. Tell them they are great at it. Praise them for working hard. Tell them they are amazing thinkers and that they belong. Trust me, it matters.

In addition, here are some great children’s books to learn more about the women who do mathematics for a living (including Sophie Germain, Emmy Noether the four women behind the space race). 

So today (a day late), I'm wearing my women in mathematics shirt – designed by Chrissy – to honor some great women in mathematics. You can grab one here. I hope that lots of people ask me who they are so I can tell them about the amazing women in mathematics and why they matter.

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