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: Yummy Sprout is a wonderful resource

After sleep patterns, I think the next biggest parenting concern I have and hear about revolves around the topic of food. How can I make sure my kids are eating enough vegetables? Did I pack them a lunch that is healthy enough? What can I feed them after school that doesn't come from a box? How many gripes am I going to get about the dinner I'm about to prepare?

Mama Madison: Tips and tricks for baby air travel

As far as places to embark on Baby's First Air Travel go, Dane County Regional Airport is a pretty sound choice, especially at 6 p.m. on a Saturday night. My biggest fear was that my nine-month-old son would start screaming in the airport; my second biggest fear was that my son would start screaming and some of my former Epic colleagues would be around to hear it.

Mama Madison: Apple-picking time

The recent shift in the weather is just another sign that autumn is fast approaching. That means one of my favorite activities is just around the corner -- apple picking. My husband and I have been picking apples every fall since before our kids were born.

Mama Madison: Baby feeding recommendations

I have a lot of questions about what to put on my eight-month-olds' plates -- and, if I'm honest, a deep and abiding fear of putting the wrong thing there. Did I start them on solid foods at the right time? What's the deal with baby-led weaning -- how much self-feeding should they be doing? At what age should I give them potential allergens like shellfish or nut products?

Heartland Farm Sanctuary helps animals that help kids

Lily the potbellied pig arrived at Heartland Farm Sanctuary blind, lethargic and too overweight to walk. The children of Heartland's summer day camp program took it upon themselves to put the curl back in her tail.

Mama Madison: Back-to-school confidences

Is it just me or does each summer seem to go by quicker than the last? The end of summer is upon us and for many families this means the start of a new school year.

Mama Madison: Does back-to-school really mean a whole new wardrobe?

This past week, on the way to the grocery store, my daughter asked what I believed she thought would be a innocuous question, "Mom, when are we going back-to-school shopping?"

Mama Madison: Next generation of bloggers

Volunteering with the Young Writers Summer Camp this past week really helped me to remember how utterly creative kids can be when encouraged to come up with their own ideas and use their own words.

Mama Madison: Returning to the workforce

This past week I gleefully accepted an offer for new job on the UW-Madison campus. My kids are getting are older and I guess I've felt for a while now that it was time to figure out what would be next for me on the professional front.

Triathlons raise money to teach kids healthy habits

"Kids spend so much time in and around school, it's the only place where some have a chance to develop an appreciation for a healthy lifestyle," says Katie Hensel, founder and executive director of Tri 4 Schools.

Mama Madison: Kids will find their own passions in their own ways

"I'm envious, mom," said my twelve-year-old daughter as she hopped in the car after theater camp last week. "All the other kids in my group seem to really like, and to be really good at, singing, dancing and acting. But I think all those things are just okay."

Vital work is being done at the Lussier Community Education Center, from community-building to STEM skills

"People are looking to book space here all the time," says Remy Fernández-O'Brien, communications and facilities coordinator for the Lussier Community Education Center, a private, nonprofit community center on Madison's west side. "They want to throw their child's first birthday party here or hold a Girl Scout meeting. We're really busy year-round, but it's especially lively here in the summer."

Mama Madison: Parental dice rolls?

Last week, in response to the county-wide Sleep Safe, Sleep Well public health campaign that encourages parents to "share the room, not the bed" with their sleeping infants, Isthmus contributor Ruth Conniff penned a lovely opinion piece in defense of bed sharing entitled "Confessions of a Co-Sleeper."

Mama Madison: What constitutes a keepsake?

As much as I'd like to believe there is latent genius in my daughter's early finger paintings, I'm pretty sure her works are not distinguishable from those created by the pointer fingers and pinkies of thousands of other children from across the world.

Mama Madison: Young love

Seeing Romeo and Juliet this past weekend was a definite reminder that I need to prepare for something that might resemble a (near) West Side Story around our place pretty soon.

Mama Madison: What a mother fears most

All during childhood, we calmly tell our kids they don't need to be afraid of the dark, thunder or the monster under the bed. But it's pretty hard to keep your parental cool when your kid is about to embark on the one thing that terrifies you. I knew the problem wasn't really with him. It was with me.

Operation Fresh Start's Youth Conservation Corps helps kids, and kids help parks

Last January, when temperatures dipped below minus 30 and most people between the ages of 16 and 24 did anything to stay inside, a small yet sturdy group of at-risk teenage boys and young men stacked wood and managed controlled burns at Festge County Park near Cross Plains. Five months later, following a temperature swing of more than 100 degrees, Isthmus found some of those same guys removing invasive honeysuckle and buckthorn at Lake View Hill County Park on Madison's north side.

Mama Madison: Summer stress solved by yoga

The first week of summer break at our place usually comes and goes without incident. At times, one could argue, it even verges on pleasant. I have no school lunches to pack and the kids have no 7 a.m. buses to catch.

Mama Madison: The greatest fans of road repair

Have you tried getting anywhere on either Verona Road or East Johnson lately? I'm pretty sure a six-month old could crawl to Fitchburg, or across the isthmus, in less time that it takes me to drive there these days.

Mama Madison: The alarm sounds

As soon as the door closed behind him, I poured myself a cup of the coffee he had made and took a moment to let the enormity of what just happened sink in. My son was ready that morning despite my inability to properly set an alarm clock. My kid was ready that morning without nudging, cajoling, or reminding. He was ready, even when I wasn't.