Girls' brains and math

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Girls' brains and math

I've often been asked about girls and why they don't seem to be as interested in math. It's a really complex question. But one of the patterns that I've seen is that girls, for whatever reason, like to be able to be right and get the answer right away and it really bothers them if they don't understand something. We are starting to see reasons in the brain why that is that making mistakes bothers girls more than boys. So through arithmetic, simple calculations, girls seem to like it, but as soon as they get into problem solving, they report they don't because they can't get the answer right away. So the key becomes early on with girls, to let them know that it is normal to not be able to figure out an answer to a complex math problem. It doesn't mean they are bad or not smart. What it means is that they have to stick with it and that it will feel cloudy, and that's normal. And if they stick with it, the clouds part. You have to help them do that so that they see that what you say is right. And you have to stick with them, work through math problems with them. And so we see with competence in fighting through things that don't seem to have an answer to it, over time it changes girls.

View JoAnn Deak, PhD's video on Girls' brains and math...


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JoAnn Deak, PhD

Psychologist & Author

JoAnn Deak, PhD, has spent more than 30 years as an educator and psychologist, helping children develop into confident and competent adults. The latter half of that period has also focused on working with adults, parents and teachers in their roles as guides or ‘neurosculptors’ of children. On her website is a quote that best describes her perspective on her work: “every interaction a child has, during the course of a day, influences the adult that child will become.”

Parents and educators at schools from New York to Hawaii, as well as such organizations as the National Association of School Psychologists, the National Association of Independent Schools, the Association of International Schools, the American Montessori Society and the International Baccalaureate Association, have heralded Dr. Deak’s ability to demystify complex issues of child development, learning, identify formation and brain research.

Dr. Deak has been an advisor to Outward Bound, a past chair of the National Committee for Girls and Women in Independent Schools, on the advisory board for the Center on Research for Girls (Laurel School), for the Seattle Girls’ School, Bromley Brook School, the Red Oak School, Power Play and GOAL. She consults with organizations and schools across the United States. Most recently, she has worked internationally with schools, organizations, associations and parent groups in every continent (except Antarctica!) She has been awarded the Woman of Achievement Award by the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools, was given the first Female Educator of the Year Award by Orchard House School, and the Outstanding Partner for Girls Award from Clemson University. She has been named the Visiting Scholar in New Zealand, the Visiting Scholar for Montessori Children’s House and has been the Resident Scholar for the Gardner Carney Leadership Institute in Colorado Springs for the past five years.

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