Saturday, September 23, 2017

I'm Too Pretty To Do Math

Pretend you are a 12 year old girl. You're insecure. You're trying to figure out who you are. You have started middle school and the social aspect of school is starting to make you question everything about yourself. Your confidence is low, and your self perception is fragile. You head to the store and see this... 

No, not my boyfriend's father being a goofball. I honestly am not sure what is going on in this picture. Check out the upper right corner. 

This is a real sign. In a real store. It took my breath away when I first saw this picture. There are so many programs and organizations in our nation committed to encouraging young girls to get involved in STEM, with the hopes that this exposure will lead to more girls pursuing STEM careers in the future. As a local title holder in the Miss America system here in Idaho, I spent years and years committed to this cause. All that work. All that time. All that money. All of it is quickly brought down by an ignorant and inappropriate message like this. The message this sign sends young girls is so much more than the words on the wall. 

Pretty girls don't do math. 

Pretty girls buy the make up below this sign. 

Pretty girls are cheerleaders. 

Cheerleaders don't do math. 

Your mathematics ability and interest is rooted in your physical appearance. 

No wonder young, impressionable girls feel pulled in so many directions. No wonder young girls in our nation struggle with their confidence in math. If I was a 12 year old, desperately seeking approval from my peers, and I felt for a second that being "good at math" would jeopardize that, why would I try? 

This sign is why I do my job. This sign fuels my fire to break stereotypes surrounding women in STEM careers. This sign is what gets me up in the morning and keeps me awake at night. This sign is the reason why I know that I will always be needed in my career field. This sign is proof that MORE strong women are needed in the education world. 

Come join me. 

Come stand beside me and join me while I scream at the top of my lungs that you can be pretty and be good at math. You can play sports and be good at math. You can be strong and be good at math. You can love reading and be good at math. You can be a cheerleader and be good at math. You can be feminine and be good at math. You can be masculine and be good at math.

You can be YOU, with all your beautiful characteristics and flaws, and be good at math. 

I was a cheerleader.

I was a "beauty queen".

And I am a math teacher with a Master's Degree in Math Education. 

Be smart. Be proud. Be you.

Come join me, ladies. You are needed.


  1. I love this story! Can I use it as an example in my presentations? I have spoken to people about the issue of gender problems in math many times, and this anecdote encapsulates the problem perfectly. Thanks for breaking our perceived molds!

    Can't wait to see more posts, Meg!

  2. Hi Adam,
    Thank you! Of course you can use it. Please feel free to share. I would love to be able to hear you speak on this topic. Keep it up!