Sunday, June 29, 2014

I have a theory . . .

. . . and not much to support it. But when I propose this theory in my classes, lots of students nod in agreement. So I think it’s valid. (Having said that, most of my students are women: I have not experienced what a man in the room might say?)

So here is my theory—gleaned from many years of studying math, of teaching Study Skills plus knitting, . . . and of just hanging around women.

When I teach a pattern drafting class, a large number of students love it. These women tend to be the doctors and engineers and nurses and math teachers—of which there are surprisingly many in our world. Knitting, for many good reasons, attracts women with these interests.

But many of my female students do not love working with numbers—even when I insist that it is arithmetic we are doing and not, strictly, math! Even so, many profess to not love numbers. I myself like numbers and so have puzzled why women would say they don’t “do” numbers. Hence the following, unsupported theory.

I believe that men are the romantics while women are more practical.

A man wants to show his affection, so he brings home flowers. The woman might prefer he take out the garbage.

The man suggests dinner out? (A truly practical man would have arranged a babysitter. But how rare is that?) The woman might love the idea of a night out with no cooking—but—truth be told—she might have already planned dinner so might prefer that he watch the children while she cooks it? Or better yet, how much would she love the man who watches the children and cooks dinner while she knits?!

So back to the math. I believe that numbers, arithmetic, and math are taught in ways that appeal to the male of the species—and in a way that leaves some (and maybe many) of the girls behind. Algebra, as I remember it, was not taught with any application: it was just lines and theories. And the boys, being the more idealistic gender, ate it up. The girls might have asked how this was going to help them figure anything out??? But when, in my teaching of the set-in-sleeve, I show how Pythagorean Theorem explains why we don’t need pins when we sew in the sleeve cap, there’s a collective sigh in the room: so that’s what that was all about!

I have not been in a public classroom for a long time, but I can only hope that things have changed since I went to school? That numbers, arithmetic, and math are taught in a way that excites the more practical members of the species?

And speaking of the classroom, please consider using this link for a Craftsy class--at a reduced price. (One of the classes offered is mine, and I would be thrilled if you would join me. I can also tell you that teaching this class was one of the most professional and pleasant experiences of my life—in case you wondered.)

Happy holidays to everyone! (July 1, Canada Day, for the Canadians. And, of course, July 4 for the Americans.)


  1. If knitting wasn't math I would not love it as much as I do :) Thanks for a great post! Carina.

  2. As a chemist (which is really just applied math), the numbers part of knitting is my favorite part!

  3. Forty years in the classroom! I can tell you that girls like to think about their mathematical thinking before raising their hands to contribute, where boys are spontaneous. Girls like to be certain that they have thought it through, because they value being correct. Boys just don't care. So WAIT TIME on the part of the classroom teacher makes a huge difference for girls. Pose the question, then wait...and wait. Girls' hands WILL go up, and their thinking is splendid. They just want to think about it first. Additionally, girls benefit from their verbal skills when learning math. Ask them to turn to their neighbor and share their thinking. Girls can readily do this, and love it. I conscientiously called on my girls twice as frequently as my boys during a math lesson. Girls like to hear other girls share their mathematical thinking. And finally, I repeatedly told my class that mathematical patterns were like poetry. My girls bought it. :)

  4. Thank you SO MUCH for this! It is very helpful and informative, and all I can think is that you must be a wonderful teacher!!! Kudos to you!