When I was in fifth grade, I missed a few days of school due to sickness and when I came back, I had some trouble getting up to speed on fractions. They were hard and awful and I cried at school one day because I thought that I would never understand them. And I am pretty sure that in that moment, I decided I wasn't good at math.
Looking back, I wonder if that little bit of frustration kept me from pursuing any additional science careers. I did, for the record, still make excellent grades in math and the sciences (except for biology because I didn't enjoy dissecting things), but I grew up with the perception that I was not good as good at math and science as I was in other subjects, so I shouldn't pursue them.
After talking to a lot of other women, I have learned that this story is fairly common: I believed I wasn't good at math, so I didn't pursue a degree in the sciences. It is such common thinking in fact, that researchers are starting to study what it would take to get more women into science careers.
What they are finding is that there is a clear gender divide: All boys need to pursue a science career is an interest. Girls, however, need both an interest and a perceived ability to perform well.
Why do girls need that extra push? There is one school of thought that we are placing too much emphasis on perfection for our daughters. And no one can live up to the expectation of perfection.
Do you encourage your children in math and science? Tell me in the comments.