Contemporary poet will.i.am once asked the immortal question “baby where’d you get that body from/baby where’d you get that body from?,” to which a backup singer answered “I got it from my mama/I got it from my mama.” Said/sung mamas are crucial to our development as women (and literally where we get our bodies from). Some moms are extreme; they help their kids deal with life-altering diseases and learn to code. But any way you slice it, your mom has a lot to do with the person you are now. Unfortunately that’s not always a good thing.
Turns out moms are more likely to pass on their insecurities to their daughters than they are to their sons. Bada** writer A.K Whitney talks about her struggles with math in her article for The Washington Post. When Whitney was frustrated with not getting good math grades, her mom didn’t encourage her to work harder and instead told her “it’s okay to be bad at math… I’m not good at math either.” Since Whitney always felt she and her mother had few other things in common, she says that she “clung to this bond, hoping we’d get closer through our shared weakness.”
Her experience isn’t uncommon. A psychological science study shows that girls are more likely to question their math ability than boys are. Girls in the study consistently self reported that they felt more anxiety than their male peers despite similar aptitude for the subject. Another study suggests that the reasoning behind those findings is that mothers are more likely to internalize the “girls are bad at math” stereotype and pass it along to their daughters.
Whitney also says she picked up on societal cues early on that “girls who like math are suspect to boys — and at 12, what boys thought was suddenly very important.”
Thankfully this story has a happy ending, with both Whitney and her mom “reclaiming math.” You’ll have to check out the original article here for all the deets, but take note from the story that we need to both encourage the next generation while believing in our own abilities so that we can overcome any internalized prejudices.
When it comes to your ability to learn and overcome obstacles, we’ll let Lindsay take this one.
Were you a math whiz in school? Tell us in the comments!