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You bet women can do math

Posted on Monday, June 28, 2010 in dating, Honesty, Relationships, Self image, Women

The bill for our drinks came, and Sara and Mia simultaneously popped out of their seats and reached for their cell phones.

“What are you gals doing?”

“Trying to figure out what each of us needs to chip in,” Sara said as her fingers wildly pressed her iPhone screen.

“On a calculator? Geez, it’s not that hard. There are only three of us,” I said.

“I’m a girl: I suck at math.”

“I hate to break it to you, honey, but you haven’t been a ‘girl’ in about 45 years. And don’t say that!”


“That girls suck at math.”

“But we do,” Mia chimed in.


“Remember when Harvard’s president said women weren’t cut out for science and math?”

“You’re not listening to that idiot!”

“Yeah, well, didn’t you hear about those new studies saying he may be right?”

Yes, I had heard about them, along with the studies that said girls may get math anxiety from their female teachers and even their moms. Why can’t they ever leave the mothers out of things?

Excuse me, but, isn’t math something that we learn? It may be harder for some and easier for others, and, sure, developmentally boys and girls may experience leaps and bursts at different times. Still, I’m not buying that we women can’t “do math” just because we’re women.

Actually, I think women are exceptionally gifted in math — we just use it differently than men. We use honest-to-goodness practical math:

  • Like when we buy something on sale. If it’s normally, say $100 and it’s now 50 percent off, we suddenly have an extra $50 in our wallet, so we are ahead $50 that we can spend on something else. The true math geeks among is, however, don’t; still, they’ll insist that they “saved money” while spending.
  • When it comes to food, we are always doing the math; do we go for the 380-calorie slice of double-chocolate cake or do we use those 380 calories for a glass of red wine and a Cobb salad?
  • We are naturally inclined to make adjustments in recipes — who hasn’t doubled or halved one, as needed? — and in cocktail mixing. And we often create wonderful new mathematical equations by addition — throwing an extra handful of chips in the chocolate chip cookie batter, say.
  • We grasp the power of three when it comes to finding The One, whether third-date sex, waiting three days for a guy to call or the Third Month Dating Syndrome (as in, are we dating or in a relationship)
  • We are constantly figuring out the best time for a bikini wax, using highly complex computations so we get maximum benefits — aka how many times we’ll be seen naked — for the $60, plus tips. Ditto with leg shaving.
  • We excel at word problems. Here’s one I use all the time: If I have 9 pairs of black shoes and I see a pair of black shoes that I like in a style I don’t have, how many pairs of shoes will I have at the end of the day?
  • We tend to be quite skilled at computing and instantaneously reciting all the times our sweetie did something that just pissed us off (aka keeping score). And we don’t even have to write it down; it’s all in our head!
  • We know that vanity sizing has made a mess of our closets let alone our heads. What size are we if we can wear a size 4, 6 and 8? This is a case where math fails us and we revert to logic; if it fits, wear it.
  • Finally, one of the all-time practical uses for math is when it comes to penis size. As you know, men worry quite a bit about the size of their dick, wondering if it’s “big enough.” But whether it’s 6 inches, 9 inches, 11 inches — we really don’t care. If it feels good and does what it should and provides us with all that we need, then, well, that’s what’s known as a perfect number, and certainly no less beautiful than Euler’s Identity.

Now who can’t do math?

  • Where do you fall on the “women can’t do math” spectrum?
  • And, feel free to add your own creative uses of math.

Bring on the comments

  1. jim
    Twitter: mobilene

    A woman who mentions Euler makes me swoon. (I have a degree in mathematics.)

  2. Shannon says:

    I have all too often had this discussion with my daughter. She had a teacher who put it in her little head that she was having trouble with math because she was a girl. Recently there was a study about the detrimental effect female teachers who were not confident in math, were having on their female students. Published in a scientific journal no less!

  3. Honey
    Twitter: honeyandlance

    I test higher on math than on English in standardized tests…and I have a PhD in English. There’s lots that’s rusty from disuse, but nothing I couldn’t re-learn 🙂

    I was President of the Math Club in high school, for Pete’s sake!

  4. Kat Wilder » You bet women can do math: Excuse me, but, isn't math something that we learn? It may be harder for s…

  5. Kat Wilder says:

    Jim — Well, now we know how to get your attention!
    Shannon — I am pretty sure most of my math anxiety stems from being told that I wasn’t good at it. Still, I know enough to get by and when I can’t figure it out, I ask; that’s important to know how to do, too.
    Honey — Holy crap! You’re a geek! 😉

  6. Steve says:

    Math education can improve greatly for both boys and girls.

    First, educators need to acknowledge “symbol phobia” ( just being scared….or impressed by the look of the look of math ) as a real problem and do something about it.

    Second, math teachers are seldom talented communicators or educators. That needs to change.

    Lastly, mathematics is a language. Mathematics ( versus arithmetic ) should be taught like any other language. If Spanish wasn’t started until high school nobody would be surprised by most new college students not being able to write quality philosophy essays in Spanish classes.

  7. dadshouse
    Twitter: dadshouseblog

    My daughter is great at math. She just graduated high school with honors, and is heading to a world class university where she’ll be studying in their engineering school.

  8. KC says:

    Good morning Kat.
    I think it’s funny how people can share thoughts, intimate ideas and just regular conversation… but can’t share a meal, an Abalone dinner or even a cup of coffee with that other person. Maybe one day we’ll all figure out how to be anonymous and still be able to gather to chat with the other bloggers of the world… maybe a fictitious name tag gathering… where the one rule is that no one can ask about the others blogs !
    Anyway, was reading about your Woman and Math blog and I had to start smiling… I personally don’t think there is anything funnier than listening to 4 women trying to figure out how much each one owes on a lunch bill… ” well, let see, you had this, she had that, I had this, she had that..” it’s almost comical! When men eat together, no body even looks at the bill… the just find out how much it was and split it. DONE! No calculators, no counting on the fingers. Done, over GONE ! One time, I heard a group of women arguing about the bill after lunch and I just went up to them, put a $100 bill on the table and told them to give the remainder to the waitress that had to wait on them… they drove her crazy and she deserved it! Mars and Venus… yes in Deedee..
    I was serious about the Abalone… just figure out how I can get it to you!

  9. BigLittleWolf
    Twitter: BigLittleWolf

    You’re right; we do use math differently (and all the time), but we’re also DAMN GOOD at the fancy math needed in the sciences!!

    I’m just back in town from one of the finest schools in the country – in the arts, and in engineering. My son and I met many other high school students there for a program. Among them were some super nerdy brilliant kids, there to take college level math in a condensed period of time. Guess what – they were GIRLS!!

    Self-defeating, self-limiting, self-sabotaging – THAT is what we have to fight, in all its forms.

  10. Kat Wilder says:

    Steve — You’re right. Never thought of it as a language, but if it were taught that way, it wouldn’t be such a mystery to most of us.

    Dads — your geekiness rubbed off oh her, eh? Congrats for her!

    KC — I love that you did that. Of course, knowing women, I wouldn’t put it past those gals to have somehow help orchestra that. 😉
    Abalone? Yum!

    BLW — “Self-defeating, self-limiting, self-sabotaging” OMG, yes. Of course, guys experience that, too. But we women perfect it!

  11. I’m all for scientific study (being one myself) but there are so many things which feed into gender studies besides biology that I would say these studies that I think it’s hard to say. Maybe men’s brains are better at pure math, but that doesn’t mean women aren’t good at it. And to perpetuate these kinds of stereotypes is even more detrimental!

    Plus, have you read all those studies about men sucking it at school these days? 😉