There is a lot of outrage going around because The Children’s Place was selling a shirt in the girls department that basically suggested girls couldn’t do math (or didn’t want to because they were busy shopping and dancing). I have to admit, I am shocked any retailer would think this was acceptable or appropriate in this day and age. How short are their memories? Don’t they remember the Barbie fiasco of 1992? Why would they invite this kind of parental anger on themselves?

On the other hand, when the outrage over this kind of corporate stupidity goes viral I start to feel a little sheepish because I really am bad at math. I am a walking stereotype and that is truly embarrassing. I’ve been behind in math since the fourth grade which was back when the dinosaurs roamed the earth according to my calculations (which might not be too accurate since I still, occasionally, use my fingers to do addition).

I’m pretty sure the only way I passed the required math courses in college was because my professors could see how hard I was trying and gave me extra help. Lots of extra help. They probably also ~~prayed~~ ~~hoped~~ figured I would find a career doing something more word based and they were right! Here I am, blogging. Don’t even get me started on the statistical analysis classes I had to endure to earn my degree in psychology. There is a reason my hair went gray early. Also, I might be the reason calculators were invented. Well, someone like me is the reason calculators were invented because I’m not THAT old. Seriously, I’m not. I just play old and cranky on the Internet for your reading pleasure.

The good (or maybe not so good) thing is Jim is bad at math too. He might even be worse at it than I am. So, being math challenged is an equal opportunity educational trait that can turn up in either sex, any gender, or any human being for that matter. Jim is so bad at math that he avoids it like the plague which leaves me the task of balancing the checkbook. Did I mention how much I love calculators? Also, call me crazy, but I am pretty sure both Jim and I would both rather be dancing or shopping than doing math. So, I guess that makes both of us bad at life, but at least we are equally bad at it, right? I mean that’s my point. Men and women can be good at math or bad at math or silly, dancing shoppers. It doesn’t really matter if you have a penis or a vagina. Math doesn’t care.

I have a theory that math is hard for a lot of people. I got that theory by Googling “Math is hard” and seeing how many pages came up. Maybe it’s because of the way math is taught or not taught in school. Maybe it’s because we emphasise other subjects or value other skills in or society. I mean, people want to be celebrities now more than ever. Maybe we need to start treating our scientists and mathematicians like rock stars. We need to make math feel more relevant and more important than we have been. We’re obviously doing something wrong because some people can’t even make change correctly, but they have really awesome hair. Why can’t they have or do both? I mean, we put physical attractiveness over lots of things, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn lots of other things and find value and respect in them. It’s not surprising that so many people view math as too much work or too boring. It just doesn’t have the glory that comes with wearing skinny jeans and having teeth so white they glow in the dark. Maybe math needs a makeover and more sex appeal. Maybe math needs more sequins and glitter and diamonds to make it popular again. Maybe The Children’s Place T-shirt is an appropriate commentary on our society as a whole and it makes us mad because it’s true. I mean, if you take the gender specificity away that is. Let’s be real, as a nation we are not exactly at the top of the class when it comes to math and science. We could do better in that department.

I really hope Tiny-Small out-maths both her parents. Being math challenged isn’t fun. It can actually be a real struggle. She deserves better than that. She also deserves more from our culture at large. Just because her parents are foolishly dancing and shopping, doesn’t mean she has to do that too. She can be a math whiz genius and a girl who likes diamonds and sequins. It’s not an impossible or contradictory combination (for boys or for girls). I am hopeful that one day she will be able to explain to me why the letters x and y dominate so many math equations and help me determine the slope of the backyard. Maybe she’ll be able to help me figure out how to get an 8×10 photo to print out as a two-inch square in my computer photo program. Having a math person around this place would make my life so much easier. So, I hope that this nonsense about girls not being able to do math isn’t pervasive in our culture because I don’t want Tiny-Small to get the impression that math isn’t something girls should do. I want her to do math well because I can’t and we always want something better for our children than we have for ourselves.

I’ve come up with a few T-shirt slogans that would be appropriate for my family:

1. Math is hard, but my husband finds it harder.

2. Mathematicians are hot. I wish I was one.

3. Math is hard, but totally worth it.

4. I can add like a boss.

5. I know what a quadratic equations is and my dad doesn’t.

6. I love sequins and algebra.

7. While my parents were dancing I solved y=-x^2+4

What would your math slogan T-shirt say?

Ooooh t-shirt slogans! How about “I make Algebra Sexy”? Because I really think I do. I do algebra all day long. I create formulas like a boss. (For the record, I spent my childhood thinking I was “bad” at math because it didn’t come as easily to me as other subjects. Since when is a consistent B+ to A- average grounds for being bad at something? I want to shake my younger self.)

You do make algebra sexy and now that I know you are so good at math I will probably bug you to death asking for formulas so I can make things work. I was the same way in school. When I took my college comps I got 8.5 out of a possible 9 points and I cried. I came across the score when I was going through my files and had a good laugh at myself. Talk about not having any perspective! I want to shake my younger self too.

I

Phone mal f(x). I was terrible at math until I found a handsome tutor. While staring into his eyes, he talked about math like it was his baby mama. His passion for math rubbed off on me. I finally “got it” and now hope to help my niece and daughter. Already, my niece helps me cook, is a pro at measuring and likes to figure out the cost of sale items when we shop!

That is so cool. I sometimes wonder if I had connected with the right person at the right time if I’d be better at math. I’ve even considered taking a math class just to test it out. I mean, maybe I am not genetically bad at math. Maybe I just learned to think I was. It’s sort of one of those things I’d like to conquer before I die. Plus, I actually need to use math a lot and so knowing how to do it would save me so much time and energy! It would cut down on my trial and error catastrophe’s.

P.S. I think it’s so cool that you are being such a good math model for the young ladies in your life!

Thank you! I’m super passionate now that I “get” math. I want to talk about it everyday whether its cooking related, shopping or arts and crafts. Its amazing how often we use math but don’t realize we mathing!

Mine would say Math is everywhere! And I have tutoring shirts that say that :). I think you’re right that it is partially hat society teaches us (that math is hard) and partially the teacher or tutor you have that makes a difference. Also when kids miss something one grade it’s hard to go back and fill gaps so it just gets more and more confusing. Check out my math blog and let me know if I can ever help! http://www.mrsnelsonmathtutoring.wordpress.com

Thanks for the link Susanne and for helping the math challenged souls out there!