We couldn't prove that women are good at math. Here's why that's OK.

Turns out we were asking the wrong question.

Many people think men are better than women at math. Computer science researcher and feminist Terri Oda has suggested graphically that this is what people think the male-female math ability scale looks like:


Image via Terri Oda.

Well, I'm a woman, so I wanted to test this theory.

So I corralled my coworker Eric.

And we both just tried to solve this math problem:

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

We both got it wrong. Miserably wrong.

If you follow the logic of that blue and pink chart up there, Eric should've gotten it right. He's a man, after all. Grrrr. Sports. Beef jerky.

But that chart is also super wrong. Miserably wrong.

What does the correct chart look like? Terri shows us.

Image via Terri Oda.

This chart reflects a study that shows both men and women are about equal in skill when it comes to math. And both are, well, equally as bad.

And it took us both a little bit of time to understand that because we're both equally bad at reading mathy charts. But we figured that it meant if women aren't good at math, men aren't either.

So the question is if men and women are both equally bad at math, then why are men doing so much of it?

Image via NASA.

Because our brains, which we have proven are bad at logical reasoning, think like this:

So when a boy is mad at math, he is bad at math. When a girl is bad at math, all girls are bad at math? Yeah. OK. Image via xkcd.

The problem isn't how we do math, it's how society has made us think about math.

A male who's bad at math? An exception to the rule. A woman bad at math? Well what do you expect?! This way of thinking is wrong. It discourages girls from pursuing mathier futures, and it makes boys who struggle with math feel like very exceptional weirdos. That's not good for anyone.

Because of the way we see math in pop culture (and in our lives) we think it's this GIANT achievement only meant for the most perfect genius — and that most perfect genius is usually a man. Says society.

Society, you're wrong again.

Everyone — men and women alike — have the potential to get good at math. After we all agree on that, push our sexist lens to the side, and create our own math-judgment-free zone, the possibilities open WAY up.

Because here's the fun:

Now that we know men and women both have equal biological potential to be good at math, we know that they also have equal biological potential to have awesome, impressive math careers.

You know, in those mathy fields that are usually overwhelmingly male? If society and our silly notions about math and gender would get out of the way, I bet even more women would be in STEM careers making mic-dropping slides like this from Terri Oda:

Equality is a beautiful thing.

More

Mom and blogger Mary Katherine Backstrom regularly shares snippets of life with her two children on her Facebook page. One particularly touching interaction with her daughter is melting hearts and blowing minds due to the three-year-old's wise words about forgiveness.

Even adults struggle with the concept of forgiveness. Entire books have been written about how and why to forgive those who have wronged us, but many still have a hard time getting it. Who would guess that a preschooler could encapsulate what forgiveness means in a handful of innocent words?

Keep Reading Show less
Family

California has a housing crisis. Rent is so astronomical, one San Francisco company is offering bunk bedsfor $1,200 a month; Google even pledged$1 billion to help tackle the issue in the Bay Area. But the person who might fix it for good? Kanye West.

The music mogul first announced his plan to build low-income housing on Twitter late last year.

"We're starting a Yeezy architecture arm called Yeezy home. We're looking for architects and industrial designers who want to make the world better," West tweeted.

Keep Reading Show less
Cities

The U.S. women's soccer team won the Women's World Cup, but the victory is marred by the fact that the team is currently fighting for equal pay. In soccer, the game is won by scoring points, but the fight for equal pay isn't as clearly winnable and the playing field isn't as even.

We live in a world where winning the World Cup is easier than winning equal pay, but co-captain Megan Rapinoe says there's one easy way fans can support the team: Go see games.

Some people argue the men's team deserves to get paid more because they are more successful and earn more money for the United States Soccer Federation. Pay depends on merchandise and ticket sales, and in general, men's sporting events tend to draw a bigger crowd than women's sporting events. It's not about sex, many argue; it's about the fact that people just prefer to see men play.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture

You think you know someone pretty well when you spend years with them, but, as we've seen time and again, that's not always the case. And though many relationships don't get to a point where the producers of "Who the (Bleep) Did I Marry?" start calling every day just to chat, the reality is that sometimes partners will reveal shocking things even after you thought you'd been all shocked out.

That's the case for one woman whose Reddit thread has recently gone viral. The 25-year-old, who's been with her boyfriend for five years, took to a forum for relationship advice to ask if it was normal that her seemingly cool and loving boyfriend recently revealed women shouldn't have a fundamental right. (And no, it's not abortion — although there are a lot of "otherwise best ever boyfriends" out there who want to deny women the rights to bodily autonomy, too.)

Keep Reading Show less
Recommended