STEAM - Boston Moms Blog

My daughters are mathletes. 

There, I said it.

They’re also word nerds, 3D printer obsessed, and love a good science class where anything is dissected.

This, you see, is foreign to me, as I grew up thinking I sucked at math and science. I could never understand it and always had tutors. In fact, I almost gave up the chance to get my master’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania because I had to fulfill a prerequisite I had spent years trying to avoid at all costs — statistics.

I was so convinced I’d fail it that I didn’t even want to try. 

Sometimes I wonder how much of that was based on the ways boys and girls were treated differently in the classroom in the 80s compared to now. I wonder how much of that was based on the fact that I could sense my parents’ math phobia early on, and that morass got passed down to me. And I wonder how much of it had to do with someone not teaching it to me in a way that my brain understood.

Here’s the thing. I spent years having a narrative in my head that “I’m not good at math,” which prevented me from even trying to practice it. It actually did me a huge disservice because I avoided certain circumstances that would have me use complex math formulas.  

I LOVE that it comes so easily to my kids. And they don’t define themselves by their mathlete status and love of science, either. It’s just part of who they are. I love that they just assume and expect girls will and should be just as good at STEAM subjects as a boy.  

I did not feel that way growing up at all.

Last spring, my oldest daughter received an award for math from the Russian School of Mathematics. I sat there in the audience in joyful disbelief that one of MY offspring was not only good at math but LOVED doing it too. How different my life would have been had I cultivated a love of math in that way. In my own way. In any way.

This summer my younger two daughters enrolled in a coding and robotics camp and absolutely loved it. I couldn’t get them to leave their projects each day and get home. Again — totally foreign to me.

I’m learning. I’m learning that being inherently good at STEAM subjects doesn’t mean you can’t also excel in creative arts, athletics, and communication and EQ. And being inherently right-brained and creative doesn’t exclude me, even at age 46, to challenge my narrative and learn to enjoy and appreciate math and science. Sadly, I thought for so long it had to be either/or. And because math was “harder” for me, I leaned into my easy instead — writing, singing, cooking, etc.

I am so relieved that in so many communities across the U.S. — in classrooms all over America — girls are finally raising their hands in math class, donning the goggles in chemistry with confidence, and geeking out over programming a Lego robot.

By the way. I ended up getting an A+ in that statistics course and packed up that September to Penn for grad school. I had clear evidence that my long-standing narrative wasn’t true. And yet I still couldn’t believe it, for so long… for too long.

I’m so glad girls in this generation get a chance to truly shine and own their intelligence.

I’ll do my part by continuing to nurture this side of them.

Who else here has a STEAM girl? What area does she love the most? I’d love to hear!

Jenny Berk
Jenny is a crass and pushy (read = sweet) native New Yorker who has always had a penchant for New England, after attending Brandeis for 4 years, but especially so after meeting her husband Barry, who also happened to live in Boston. After marrying, and creating 3 awesome daughters - ages, 11, 8 and 6 - she and her husband moved to Needham and love it there! Jenny is a Certified Eating Psychology Coach, Mindful Eating Instructor and Wellness blogger. She loves writing about how Mom's can navigate and prioritize their health and positive body image after having children. When she's not trying to figure out how the heck to parent a tween, She can be found blogging at the Huffington Post, (healthy living section) and on her site Heck yes! - mindfulness, kettlebells, body acceptance, yoga, traveling the word and eating decadent and unctuous (vegetarian) food. No way, man! - arthritis at 40, allergies to anything, animal cruelty, waiting in line.