Friday, October 06, 2006

1 Math Class + Old Regrets = ?

As most of you know, I'm back in college and working on a degree in journalism. It's been an interesting and sometimes grueling adventure since I'm no longer a teenager and have bills of my own to pay. I've been enjoying the challenge, though and learning a lot about myself. It's amazing what you discover when you challenge yourself just a little. For years, while I was working and pursuing acting, I never had to apply myself to much beyond character studies and audition techniques. In the last year I've written papers on philosophy, sociological patterns at work, comparative essays on Frankenstein and Blade Runner ( that one was a blast) and an anthropological description of an American wedding (someitmes being a bridesmaid is useful). While I don't love missing outings with my friends so I can stay home and "work on a paper", I get a kick out of exercising my mental muscles a bit. It's down right addictive.

This semester I'm taking my first math class since high school. Back in high school I was the kind of student who did very well in anything that involved reading and writing. I had to work a lot harder at math and I actually ended up taking geometry twice because if you get a C they don't send you on to Algebra II. Needless to say I was a little worried that this college level math course might mess up my GPA. I've never had a 4.0 before and I don't intend to lose it now.

So, imagine my surprise when I got back my first test in Intermediate Algebra this week. I got an "A". A great big, fat "A". And I realized that this math thing is not so scary. I've been catching on pretty well in class, but I wasn't sure I really had it down until I got that test back. And I began to wonder where I might be today if I had realized this sooner. Say, back in the 6th grade. If I'm getting "A"s in math now and I got "C"s in math ten years ago, what does that mean? Did my brain suddenly learn how to manipulate algorithms while I was out of school? Am I smarter that I was ten years ago? Or am I just more confident? Maybe the amazingly patient and supportive teacher I have has a little bit to do with it too.

Last night in class our professor handed out the test again, put us in groups and had us work out the problems together. My group consisted of four young women and one guy. All the girls seemed to automatically defer to the guy in our group for help with the answers even though I had gotten a higher score than him on the test. Fine with me, I'm no teacher. But the thing that really irked me was how they all just assumed that they couldn't figure out the problems on their own. They had no confidence in themselves! It was just an automatic response to them. "Oh, well I'm no good at math so I'll ask this guy because guys are better at math than girls."
And these are smart, well spoken girls. Two of them are going into the nursing program and I know there's going to be more math and science for them master before they get out of there.

I was just so saddened to see how they all short changed themselves without even noticing they were doing it. And I was angry with myself for doing the same thing all these years. I used to want to be a marine biologist and study orca whales when I was a kid. By the time I got to high school I had given up on that idea. Too much math and science required for that. I thought I could never get through all the hard science classes to get a degree in marine biology. Now I'll never know.

If you have a little girl, please please encourage her in her math and science classes. It's not just the realm of super smart boys. We need more female doctors and scientists. We need more women getting masters degrees in engineering and computer science.

We need more female marine biologists.





7 comments:

bazu said...

Wow- your post really resonated with me. I was also a high school math failure, but realized years later that it was probably as much to do with awful teachers as me being stupid. The stigma still follows me to this day (it doesn't help that my whole family are math whizzes). You are so right about the need to change the attitudes and perceptions of girls from an early age, because by high school or college it might be too late to change internalized thoughts.
Congrats on your stellar performance in your math class!
And it was great to hear about your walk for farm animals. I am going to do the Ithaca, NY one tomorrow and will be sure to blog about it.

Lora_3 said...

I did read on MSN that females, they said "girls" were doing better then ever on SAT scores. After what you said I wonder if female students do better in Math when they have female teachers. Another question would be why do women from India go into those higher math fields? Do you understand what I mean by that?

I think Marine biology would be hard because of all the anatomy and latin. Your a good writer and you'll find your way.

Be safe...

KleoPatra said...

Wow, Meesh, whatta post, woman. Very sad about the response of some of the women in class... sad.

Congrats on your excellence on the Algebra quiz and keep up the good work in school!!! Getting smarter as you get older... pretty obvious there that's what's happening. And good to have teacher support and assistance. A great combo there.

Journalism is an interesting career *wink, wink*

It IS addictive to stretch that mental muscle. I'm not a MENSA person but i have a bunch of paperback MENSA quiz books and i like to do a few pages of them every night before i head off to dreamland...

Gaia said...

Wow Meesh ! Congrats on your A !
I really believe that math and science becomes easier when you are older. I was a good student in school but hated maths and science (I was into theater and music, langage and arts mostly) and although I did alright, I now see that I didn't fully understand. I would study to get a good grade on a test and forget everything afterwards. That is what most of us do in school.
Real learning comes when you love learning and math and science are really easier and much more interesting to me now that my boys and I work with them. I understand so much more now !

Sad about those girls...

Vicki said...

Congrats on your A & Math success! Sorry to hear some girls are short-changing themselves - sad to observe & even sadder that they don't recognize it in themselves...
I have two young girls, and I'm perma-filing this post in my noggin -- to model confidence & aspire to reach wonderful heights.

Marz said...

Three cheers for Meesh's math success! An A in math, you are so my hero. Can't wait to give you a big hug in person. Fishie kisses!

The Lone Beader said...

I was lucky enough to have a father who was a math genius, and he helped me a lot with my homework. So, I was always an honor student when it came to math. Good luck this semester!!