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NMSI Blog

Making Math Anxiety "Disappear" for Young Black Girls

We invited Brittany Rhodes, creator of the Black Girl MATHgic Box, to offer her insights on math anxiety and encouraging girls in STEM from a young age.

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girl-writing.pngHow many times have you heard someone proudly proclaim, “I’m bad at math” and no one bats an eyelash — or, worse, people excitedly agree that they, too, are bad at math?

Math anxiety is real.

 
So real, in fact, that, according to ed.gov, approximately 93% of people in the United States report having some level of math anxiety. Of course, mathematics is not the only subject that causes anxiety; however, math anxiety can be more detrimental, and possibly affect performance more, than anxiety in other subjects.
 
To add insult to injury, females and minorities are more adversely affected by math anxiety than the rest of the population. Stereotype threat, or the fear of confirming a negative stereotype about one’s race, gender, ethnicity or culture, along with math anxiety, contributes to the underrepresentation of females and minorities in STEM.
 
A strong foundation in STEM is important because it expands career options, increases earning potential and provides more opportunities to design an ideal life. However, a strong foundation in STEM cannot exist without a strong foundation in math. Why? Because “there is no STEM without M!”  Math is the foundation of STEM. We need strong math skills to study everything from biochemistry to computer science to civil engineering. Even if we want to own a business or go into a seemingly unrelated field, like psychology, we still need strong math skills. With the significant gender and racial gaps that exist when it comes to math, the subset of the population that is most negatively impacted by math anxiety is black girls.
 
As a black woman who has a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and has been tutoring math for 15+ years, I know firsthand the detrimental effect low-quality math experiences and limiting language around math has on black girls. I want to help reverse this effect and reshape the way black girls experience, perceive and interact with mathematics.
 
One of the best ways to do this is through connecting high-quality, in-school math experiences to valuable, supplemental education opportunities. Interventions like personalized tutoring services, adaptive learning technologies, and educational products coupled with in-school learning yields amazing results for our youth. Students who experience learning outside the classroom gain a myriad of benefits, including higher achievement and increased confidence.
 
Now, I will have the honor of doing just that. The Black Girl MATHgic Box focuses on raising achievement and increasing confidence in black girls ages 8-16. With the Black Girl MATHgic Box, black girls nationwide will be able to more easily connect math to their lives and build the math confidence they need to maximize their potential.  With the Black Girl MATHgic Box, more black girls will proclaim that they’re “good at math!” Now, that’s a proclamation I’m sure we would all love to hear.





Coming Soon: Black Girl MATHgic Box: The first and only math education subscription box inspiring math confidence in black girls ages 8-16! Each box will contain a foundational math lesson, relevant to her lived experiences, items to support the lesson, an affirmation to strengthen her math confidence and a profile of a black woman mathematician to develop her math identity.
 
Join our e-mail list for exclusive launch details!
blackgirlmathgicbox.com