by Karen McCarthy
Most of the things a child fears, they’ve learned from the adults around them. Math is no exception. Many adults are guilty of spreading Math Anxiety to children.
A few years ago, I had the privilege of tutoring math. This was before Khan Academy and all the other cool online ways of learning math now. I did it for about three years and thoroughly enjoyed it. I worked with students in middle school up to college freshmen. There were students from different backgrounds and with different levels of motivation. One of my favorite students, a young lady in her last year of middle school, told me one day that her teacher told her calculus was hard. This teacher taught her pre-algebra, which my student was struggling with, and she was already worrying about calculus. I was upset that her teacher had told her that and could only reassure her that she won’t really know until she tries it.
After that revelation from my student, I changed my tutoring strategy a bit. I started having more conversations with my students. I wanted to learn how they felt about math and school in general. I wanted to know what they liked and didn’t like. I wanted to get to know them better. With the exception of one brilliant young man who called me to help him solve one very difficult calculus problem, all my students had some Math Anxiety.
There is research that backs up what I saw firsthand. The National Mathematics Advisory Panel of the U.S. Department of Education has found that anxious students perform lower than their abilities. There is evidence that shows mathematical anxiety is passed on from teachers. Girls are especially affected when a female teacher publicly announces math hatred. A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows the higher a teacher’s anxiety, the lower the scores. Parents and other adults the students rely on are also contributing to the anxiety.
What I did
Usually the sessions were one hour with the expectation being that I would help them with their homework. That is not a lot of time when you’re starting a revolution. I had to:
1. Work to build a rapport
I remember when I was in school. I enjoyed and tended to get better grades in the classes of the teachers ‘I liked’. I would ask them about their day and their friends. After a while they started sharing stories and jokes without me even asking. That was usually how our session began.
2. Work to build trust
I would share with them something that happened with me since the last time I saw them. I would encourage them to try when working on the math problems. My patience and willingness to stick it out with them helped to build trust.
3. Work to build interest
I would share interesting facts about math in different areas of our lives: architecture, art, and science. I would share with them how math is connected to everyday things we do. I would also demystify fundamental math concepts like multiplication tables or division. You’d be surprised how many students missed the fundamentals altogether.
4. And still have time for homework
As you can imagine once you get a kid talking… It forced me to manage our time more efficiently to ensure we covered what was needed to complete the assignment.
What I observed
I’m not able to tell you what percentage of the kids had a positive response to my new strategy. I didn’t keep record. I can say I did see change. The biggest change occurred in my middle school students, with almost all responding positively. The top three things I noted were:
That last point could entirely be my ego talking and without the statistics that comes through proper record keeping of my results, you’re just going to have to trust me. By working to build their confidence and helping the kids to think about math in different ways, I saw my younger students improve.
Math Anxiety is real. As adults (especially if we have children in our families) let’s stop spouting the hate for math. There is no shame in saying we don’t understand how to solve a math problem. There are many options to getting kids the tutoring help they need to improve in the area of math and whatever other subjects they are struggling with. Teachers, think about how your math anxiety is negatively impacting the children in your care. Have fun with it and encourage the kids to keep trying.
by Giselle Valenzuela Aldridge
“Behind every successful woman is herself.”
Most of us have heard this quote before. There are even memes available for download featuring this quote. Most of us also know that this quote is a play on the following quote, “Behind every successful man is a woman.” However, is success reached by a woman with absolutely no help or support from anyone else, especially men? Let’s find out if we can find any evidence to the contrary.
Is This Saying True? What Might LeanIn.org Say?
Following the release of Sheryl Sandberg’s much talked about book, “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead”, Sheryl Sandberg created LeanIn.org as a private operating nonprofit organization. The focus of this organization is to empower women in the workplace. Where Sandberg’s book was written in hopes of women following its precepts and empowering themselves in the workplace, LeanIn.org seeks to implement the ideas through people.
Recently, LeanIn.org partnered with the NBA to create some TV ads that encourage men to “lean in” for their wives, daughters, and female coworkers (or direct reports). The hashtag for these ads is #LeanInTogether. As I was watching these ads, I couldn’t help but to see parallels in my own life with the messages in some of these ads. I couldn’t help but to think that there may be something to at least some of these ideas worth considering.
The Support of Advocates
Becky Hammon, assistant NBA coach for the San Antonio Spurs, headlines one of the ads. She credits her reaching her status as the first ever female assistant NBA coach to Gregg Popovich, head coach of the San Antonio Spurs. According to her, he has been a strong advocate of her abilities, which has led to her rise within the Spurs organization. In the ad, she credits “Pop” with helping her to break the glass ceiling in the NBA leading to her rise into the assistant coach position for the Spurs.
In my own career, I can point to a director and VP (both men) which ensured that I received a promotion that they agreed had been long overdue. Without their support, that promotion probably never would have happened with that company. It’s very likely that I would have had to have left the company in order to gain any traction career-wise.
The Support of A Partner
Chris Bosh, Power Forward for the Miami Heat, starred in an ad as well. In his ad, he details how he supports his wife, Adrienne Bosh, in her business. Chris and Adrienne had two young children together when the ad was filmed along with Chris’ daughter from a former relationship. They will soon be adding twins to their family. Adrienne is the owner of a boutique/café on South Beach in Miami. Even the way he says the name of her store, “Sparkle and Shine Darling” is in a word… darling. He just exudes pride in his wife and her business.
Adrienne says Chris supported and encouraged her to start her business. He watches the kids when he can so that she can run the store. Chris says that he has taken the teamwork concepts that he learned on the court and has applied them to his home. He feels that in the same way that Adrienne has supported him in his NBA career, he wants to support her in her business ventures. If she needs a little time to unwind after a day at the shop, he steps in with the kids so she can release some steam before she gets back to mommy duties. He truly feels that he is in her corner and wants to help her reach for success in the business world.
My husband has borrowed from Chris Bosh’s teamwork playbook as well. He listens with excitement to all of my business plans. He also watches our kids when I need extra evening time to work on projects for my business. He has introduced me to high powered contacts to add to my professional network. He encourages me and is my sounding board. When I first set up the Twitter handle for my business, guess who was the first Twitter follower as soon as I mentioned that I set it up? You guessed it. There’s a truly magical feeling I get knowing that no matter what, he is “in my corner” as Chris Bosh says.
Support Goes Both Ways
Becky Hammon mentions in her ad that she believes that just as she has been supported by men in her organization, she supports men in her organization too. Chris Bosh mentions in the ad how Adrienne supported him and his NBA career, which makes him very happy to support her in turn with her business. Support does not seem to be a one-way street. Those of us who support are more likely to be supported ourselves. Let that be a lesson to those of us at the beginning of a corporate career.
So What’s the Verdict?
It seems to me that the saying of a successful woman only needing herself (support network of one?) is completely untrue. Truthfully, I imagine anyone with enough experience who has seen any success in the corporate world can easily point that out. These same folks have at some point counted on the support of mentors, partners, and/or colleagues.
They say, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Perhaps it is also appropriate to say, “It takes a village to raise a successful career.” Those of us looking to start a business or move up the corporate ladder need as many as can support us as possible and this includes the men in our lives and reporting structures.
by Karen McCarthy and Giselle Valenzuela Aldridge
First, a little bit about ourselves:
Karen has a combined twenty-one years of experience in IT. She has nine years of experience as a software developer and twelve years of experience as a database administrator for mainly the MS SQL Server DBMS. She specializes in troubleshooting database performance issues and analyzing application DBMS issues. Because of her background as a developer she enjoys coding whenever she can.
Giselle has fifteen years of experience as a software engineer working with both small businesses as well as large multinational corporations. She specializes in providing data on both the Microsoft and Oracle platforms to clients that help drive business-improving decisions. She is the founder of Colossians Consulting and can be reached via http://www.colossiansconsulting.com.
Why write I Am IT Woman?
Karen: There are a few positives to attending a girls’ only high school. Things you don't appreciate while you're attending but work to shape your attitude towards your career and life in general... I never ever thought I couldn’t do something because that’s something boys did. I was never outnumbered and made to feel like a minority like I was in some of my early work experiences. My physics and biology teachers were women. I was being empowered all through high school and I didn’t even know it.
In the span of my career, I’ve seen the number of female peers increase. It’s wonderful to see. However, when I talk to young people in middle and high school, I still hear the old stereotypes that boys do engineering. The young women don’t consider it even if they excel at those subjects. How can I contribute to changing this pattern?
I would like for this blog to be part of my contribution.
Giselle: We (the contributors of IAmITWoman) met while working at the same consulting firm many moons ago. Despite working with different companies since, we reconnected to pleasantly find that our lives had taken similar trajectories. We also pleasantly found that we had unknowingly developed similar interests. Namely, issues facing women in STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math fields)…
My hope is to write articles about the unique challenges facing women in STEM. My hope is to take some of the national conversation on this subject and frame it around my own experiences. I am certainly experienced enough at this point to provide real life examples of the challenges facing women (specifically women with families) in STEM.
If young women entering the STEM fields read this blog and are then able to get a feel for what challenges they will face in the second part of their careers (the one that occurs after having children), I think I can feel good about that. If men read our articles and feel like they can maybe understand what their wives, sisters, girlfriends are experiencing better, then I think I can feel good about that too. Conversations can bring about understanding. I'm hoping to help start those conversations.
Many of the challenges with being a family woman in STEM are not the subject of too many conversations. Knowledge is power. I hope to empower women (and men as well) here on this blog.
As for the name IAmITWoman, Karen and I liked the idea of playing off of the song that was very empowering to women in the 1970s, “I Am Woman” by Helen Reddy. We hope you find this blog informative and thought-provoking. Please feel free to contribute to the conversation.