Welcome to Teaching Feminism, a series about equality in the classroom. Teaching feminism is about so much more than teaching girls. We need to teach all of our students to respect everyone, no matter what. Teaching feminism talks about just that. Have your own story about these issues? Share it here.
As a kid, I would relish in picking out just the right book for bedtime. My parents would read me a story before I went to bed each night, and it was always something I looked forward to. In retrospect, I probably enjoyed these bedtime stories partially because they put off bedtime for just a litte bit longer, and partially because they allowed me to escape to a different world for a little bit, allowing me to clear my mind before sleep. Even now, though, I find it difficult to fall asleep if I don’t spend some time reading before bed. This absolutely fostered a love of literature and reading in me from a very young age, and had I not had this experience, I might not have become an English major in undergrad and gone on to teach high school English.
My story is probably not unique. Lots of parents read to their kids before going to bed, and it’s a great practice to get into. What if we replaced bedtime stories with bedtime story problems, though? What impact would it have on our children to do math rather than read before bed? Would more students — particularly girls — become interested in math as they grew older?
Laura Bilodeau Overdeck did just that with her children, and she even has a website totally devoted to the topic. There, she posts problems for kids of all ages — and the answers, so don’t worry if you’re not that good at math yourself! — to complete before bedtime. The site has even drawn attention from news outlets like NPR, where readers have shared their own stories about bedtime math.
While I would never discourage you from reading your kids a good bedtime story, bedtime math can be a great way to get kids, especially girls, involved with math from a very young age. This is important because, although there is no difference in math ability between girls and boys, girls do tend to suffer more from math anxiety than their male counterparts. If parents can expose their children to math in a fun, comforting environment, this can help alleviate math anxiety in school. If using bedtime stories is important to foster a love of reading in children, then the same can definitely be said for using bedtime math. Students who love a subject are more likely not to experience anxiety when it comes to that subject in school.
Furthermore, with so few young women taking advanced math and science courses — and, therefore, entering professions that require math and science — it’s important that we teach girls that math isn’t just for boys, and Barbie was wrong when she said, “Math class is tough!” By encouraging girls to practice math at home, it sends a strong message that they can be good at math, too.
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