Dumbing Down Girls

There’s a new math book for middle school girls out there. As you can see it is formatted like a ‘girl’s’ magazine, a la Cosmo or Cleo … it even comes with a horoscope inside! Now, the article I read in Wired seems to paint this book in a very positive light — FINALLY math available to all lovers of pink! Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s very sad that so many young girls find maths ‘hard’, but surely this is not the way to go about fixing the problem. Take the following explanation for instance: “Going back and forth between percents and decimals is very easy. All you need to do is take away the % sign, then move the decimal point two places — that’s it!”

While this may help girls pass their maths tests or do their maths homework, it gives them absolutely no explanation for WHY the mechanics works. It doesn’t tell them anything about what the percentage sign means, and that can only be a detriment to them later on in high school maths, when they might have to have an understanding in order to perform more complex maths functions.
And what does it say about our expectations of girls!! Can they only hope to understand mathematics if it comes with an article on whether you have a crush on him?? Are girls really that uninterested and ditsy? It’s slightly insulting, isn’t it?
This whole dumbing down of girls is getting out of hand. The Junie B Jones book series is another example. The New York Times recently featured an article on the series
that highlights the issue. Junie B books are written with incorrect grammar and spelling … to supposedly mirror the writing style of a first-grade girl. I never encouraged the reading of these books for my kids. I don’t understand why anyone would presuppose that a young girl should be incapable of producing correct spelling and grammar. Once again, dumbing it down.
Isn’t it time we started giving young girls the impression that we believe them to be not just pretty but capable young minds???

Comments (3)

  1. Anonymous

    is it really bad that I used to think the Junie B Jones books were hysterical when i was younger? I turned out fine, I think *tilts head to one side and starts twirling hair around finger* – Emma Ocean

  2. Anonymous

    My son would not read for years. As a baby and toddler, reading to him and around him was (and still is) an everyday occurance. His tests are always above average, so there is no reading difficulties or problems with comprehension. We modeled appropriate behavior. Then he finally started reading. He read comic books, magazines for boys, and books that were filled with short blurbs instead of full stories (ie. Dragonology). Should I have admonished him because of it? Is this not good enough? He now reads everyday for entertainment. Is this dumbed down for him?
    We need to understand that small steps need to be taken. In math, getting down the “how” and then achieving success needs to happen first. You can explain the “why” until you are blue in the face, but if they experience no success, they won’t get it. This book, as well as Junie B. Jones, and comic books, are stepping stones for our children to acheive success. If we deprive them of that kind of fun, they may just put down these books and watch TV.

  3. slife (Post author)

    Hi anonymous — There is nothing wrong with comic books and books that have short blurbs – those are perfectly fine – Dragonology is a big favorite of both my sons, as is Calvin & Hobbes — no the difference is that books like Junie B Jones use incorrect grammar and spelling — and mathbooks like the one here don’t actually explain the concepts — in fact state that it’s not necessary to understand the concept. This is the distinction I’m trying to make.


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