Mama Madison: Why shouldn't girls love to build?

Instilling knowledge of math and science in our daughters

We are a "words," not a "numbers," family, I've often said. My kids' favorite subjects in school have always been language arts, history and foreign language -- the stuff humanities vs. engineering degrees are made of.

Sure, they liked Legos when they were little, but I don't think my children ever used them to build a house, fashion a robot or erect a skyscraper. No, they wanted Legos for every birthday and holiday in order to collect the "little guys" (especially the Star Wars "little guys") that came with every set. The rest of the thousands of building bricks we amassed still sit in a bin in the back of the basement.

This lack of interest in formulas and functions never bothered me much with my male offspring. I think I always took a certain secret pride in the fact that I was raising boys who liked theater, mythology and films from the golden age of Hollywood. Maybe, I hoped, they were helping to break the "boys like math, girls like reading and the arts" elementary school stereotype.

Unfortunately though, I might very well be as bad as former Harvard president Lawrence Summers -- or Mattel's 1992 marketing fiasco "Teen Talk" Barbie -- when it comes to raising my daughter.

She suffers, you see, from math anxiety and I'm partly to blame. I've allowed her over the years, without correction, to claim that she's bad at math. In attempts to make her feel better, I've even shared my own horror stories of being demoted from the top fractions group in sixth grade. And nearly failing pre-calc my freshman year of college.

My daughter actually does just fine in math, but I've never once discussed with her the kinds of careers that strong computational skills allow for. She wants to be a writer or an artist -- all good, of course. But at the same time, it's a little embarrassing that she still thinks engineers only drive trains. And that going into banking means giving out lollipops to kids in the backseat of cars when their parents come through the drive-though.

But last week's Isthmus article on the lack of women in academia working on information technology really made me think. My daughter has left her Barbies, Teen Talk and otherwise, behind long ago. And now she spends just about all of her free time playing on my laptop. Isn't it high time then, she learns how to program one?

So, I guess I'll look into the scratch programming class likely to be offered by the Madison Children's Museum this coming spring. Hopefully, if all goes well, by the time she graduates from high school she will know that Python isn't just a type of snake. And that Java is more than an Indonesian island...or a flavor of Frappuccino.

And while my daughter may be a little bit too old for them now, Goldieblox, a female-targeted construction toy along the likes of Legos, Tinker Toys, and Lincoln Logs, seems like pure genius. I felt inspired and hopeful last week watching the company's latest You Tube video, which showcases the ingenuity of pint-sized tutu-clad actresses wielding hammers to the tune of Queen's power ballad "We are the Champions."

Because while I certainly don't berate a girl of any age for wanting to grow up to be royalty, there is no question that all potential "princesses", including my daughter, should know how to forge her own crown.

Our society needs to get creative about figuring out how to attract more girls to math, science and technology related fields. Necessity, after all, is the mother of invention. And who knows. Perhaps someday I'll be the mother of an inventor.

comments powered by Disqus

More to read

Loading More Articles
No More Articles

Mama Madison: When mom gets a new roomie

This past week, against both my will and better judgement, I accompanied 50 or so middle school kids to the Future Problem Solvers Wisconsin State Bowl, a popular academic and skit-writing competition. It was my husband who had originally signed up to chaperone the event, thinking that spending a few days with his 11-year-old daughter and her compatriots would serve as an excellent anthropological experience. But when an unexpected work obligation made it impossible for him to attend, it was me left holding the bag

Mama Madison: Earth Day awareness

It may be a bigger waste of breath than electricity to ask my kids to turn off the lights when they leave a room. If I've nagged them once, I've nagged them a thousand times. No, I've never noticed anything amiss with their fingers. But it appears they are physically incapable of flipping a switch to the "off" position.

Mama Madison: Parents should know and understand school codes of conduct

I want to say thank you to the Board of Education for allowing Maia to return to class, unquestionably the place she belongs, as well as to thank them for adopting the new policies. But just as importantly, I also want to thank Maia and her family for their willingness to come forward with their story.

Helping your kids stick with music lessons

Some clever-clogs is playing Rachmaninoff on the piano at a party, and there it is again, that oft-heard adult lament of lost opportunity from a dejected onlooker: "I wish I could play. I wish my parents hadn't let me quit music lessons. I was just a kid -- how was I to know?" It's a reasonable complaint.

A summer camp quiz for parents

If you're checking out summer camps for your child, there are many issues -- some obvious, some less so -- to keep in mind. Here's a list to keep handy when you contact camps and camp directors, looking for the perfect spot for your kids to have fun, relax, and learn this summer.

Mama Madison: Lessons in dining out

I know, in the grand scheme of things, that my kid issues, when it comes to dining out, absolutely pale in comparison to those of parents whose kids have special needs. Many kids, especially those who are on the autism spectrum, are disturbed by changes in their routine, or anxious around noisy places. They may not be able tolerate waiting for a table or standing in line. So unfortunately, many of these families just avoid eating out at restaurants altogether.

Mama Madison: Natural vs. un-natural parenting

It's weird to admit this, especially in a city surrounded by as much outdoor beauty as Madison. But frankly, I'm just not that into nature. I'm more of an indoor kind of gal. Give me an afternoon at the Chazen or the Wisconsin Historical Museum over the Arboretum or Olbrich Gardens any day.

Mama Madison: Theatrical talent close to home

Lavish costumes, gorgeous sets, a full orchestra and a concession stand where nothing cost more than two bucks and you have a pitch perfect experience at the theater. Oh, and did I mention the ticket prices were just $10 dollars apiece? One could afford to take the whole family for a live theater experience for less than an evening at the Lego movie would cost including popcorn.

Mama Madison: Race to shame

I think the first time in recent years that I've felt a real sense of shame, as both a parent and community member, was last Tuesday evening as I sat in a crowded elementary school LMC to listen to Ken Taylor, executive director of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, and his colleague, Torry Wynn, present key findings from the 2013 Race to Equity report to our PTO group.

Hancock Center addresses bullying through body movement

It's Wednesday morning at Allis Elementary School on Madison's east side, and 16 third-graders -- 10 boys and six girls -- enter into an open-space classroom in typical wiggly, giggly style. Some are making goofy faces at one another, some are bouncing around hand-in-hand with friends, and others are just trying to stay out of the whirling-dervish path of activity.

Mama Madison: Get in the picture

Of the 789 poorly-composed, way-too-dark and out-of-focus photos currently living on my iPhone, I can count on two hands the number that show my kids and me together. And my husband is in probably no more than three or four of those.

Mama Madison: Welcome to the Parenting Olympics

Something kind of magical has happened these past two weeks during the Sochi Olympics. There is no question, debate or disagreement on what will be watched on television once all homework is done. Everyone in the family makes time to sit down together to watch an hour of so of the primetime televised games.

Mama Madison: Facebook's instant nostalgia fix

Truth be told, though, this month I'm feeling a bit cinematically fried. In some ways, I already feel like I've spent the last week or so at a film festival. A festival specializing in minute-long glimpses of ordinary lives all ending with credits that feature the ubiquitous blue thumbs-up. Yes, it's been the February of the Facebook movie.

Mama Madison: The kindness question

Just last week, on precisely the same day the Momastery post was getting over a million well-deserved views, Madison mom Suzanne Buchko was telling a similar story. Not on a blog but instead in the confines of the modestly circulated Franklin-Randall Elementary School weekly newsletter.

Toddlers take to tablets

Late last month, the Madison Metropolitan School District adopted a five-year, $27.7 million technology plan calling for all district students, including those in the primary grades, to have significantly increased access to their very own tablet or notebook computer by 2019. Some parents, as well as education professionals, questioned whether elementary-aged kids, especially kindergarteners who aren't even able to read or write yet, will gain much benefit from introducing yet another screen into their lives.

Mama Madison: Science or study hall?

This past Monday, had winter's unrelenting weather allowed, Middleton Cross Plains School District teacher Andrew Harris would have once again been at the helm of a classroom. After nearly four years of fighting his dismissal from Glacier Creek Middle School for viewing and passing on sexually explicit material on district computers, MCPSD has been legally forced to reinstate Herris, this time as a seventh-grade science teacher at Kromrey Middle School.

Mama Madison: MTV provides a teachable moment

In a study published last week by the National Bureau of Economic Research, academics have found that the 16 and Pregnant series may have played a significant role in the recent decrease in U.S. teen pregnancies.

Mama Madison: Planning for the MLK holiday

In our house, sad but true, we've rarely spent the Martin Luther King holiday discussing race, social justice or the power of non-violent civil disobedience. Instead, the third Monday in January has historically been treated as just another day off school, just another long weekend. And it's been a missed opportunity.

Mama Madison: The long vacation

It's not something that happens very often, but last Friday, as news of the impending arctic cold snap reached our house, my kids were rooting for Governor Scott Walker. They were rooting for him to take Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton's lead and cancel school throughout the state. They couldn't care less if he had the authority to do such a thing -- if he called off school, he'd be their hero.

Mama Madison: Cheating 101 at Middleton High School

Late last semester, as students were packing up their backpacks one final time before winter break, Middleton High School principal Denise Herrmann and assistant principal Lisa Jondle were co-authoring a note home to parents informing them of a widespread cheating scandal involving nearly 250 calculus students at the school.

Emails from Isthmus Parents feature event highlights, story links, site updates, and occasional special offers from trusted sources. Name and email address are required. Thanks!