Words: Elle Griffiths
Many people still believe that, unlike other subjects and areas of interest, you’re either good or bad at Maths.
This common misconception – that mathematical ability is an innate skill and not something that can be taught – is particularly frustrating as research suggests that it is holding women back more than men.
It was recently revealed only 17 percent of those in the UK’s technology workforce are female, as an article in Silicon.co.uk highlighted the lack of participation of women in the wider science, technology, engineering and mathematics related ‘STEM’ industries.
But a hilarious new video aims to challenge this idea and encourage school-age girls and Millennials to re-think their attitudes towards maths and potentially steer more women towards STEM careers.
Math Brain, which approaches the serious issue in a humorous and 1980s inspired way, displays the before and after testimonials of a group of women falsely believing they are bad at maths because they don’t have a ‘math brain’.
Produced by a predominantly female team, the video was funded by the Harnisch Foundation- a philanthropic foundation focused on advancing equality.
Foundation head, Ruth Ann Harnisch explained: “As a woman who lived through the '80s era of infomercials, big hair, and almost zero encouragement and support for girls who were interested in math and science, I’m hoping Math Brain will help today’s girls embrace their natural skills in STEM.”
Since the video was launched on ‘Pi’ day, the national celebration of the mathematical constant π on March 14th, it has grown in popularity and been picked up by the likes of Amy Poehler.
The project was inspired in part by the work of Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck who discovered that when girls perceive intellectual ability as a gift (something you either have or don’t), they often become defeated when presented with a challenge. As a result, they are more likely to buy into negative stereotypes surrounding their involvement in STEM fields.
On the other hand, Dweck found, boys are energised by challenges. And if they believe that mathematical ability is an innate gift, they also usually assume that they have it.
Read More: Why aren’t there more women in tech?
Writer and producer Cate Scott Campbell said of the project: “Math Brain targets limiting beliefs about math, but it’s really about smashing down any belief that you are limited or less than.”
She added: “What girls believe about math and their abilities to do it has the power to make or break their success. All of the work being done to excite young women about STEM is vitally important.
“But if those same young women believe that they’re destined for failure because of the way their brains work, how much can we really achieve?”
Her passion for the issue is clearly influenced by her experience tutoring young girls in Mathematics.
As for the 1980s theme, she says: “Who isn’t obsessed with the 80s?”
Well, not us.