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I had many interaction with young girls when I was a private math teacher. Most of them have an assumption that learning mathematics is not necessary for them, because they just want to be a house wife in the future.

I have some suggestions but I will not say here now (only to avoid interfering your idea).

If you have the same experience, could you tell me what is your suggestion to them?

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I would say that they are probably right. They don't need to listen to music or to look at beautiful paintings either. They don't have to watch films or read books. They don't have to go for walks and enjoy nature. All these things are completely unnecessary for house wifes. –  Alex B. Dec 7 '10 at 14:08
I think that this question is off topic, and that it would be better suited for a parenting Q&A site. How is it specific to mathematics? Are these girls enthusiastic about all other school subjects? –  Jonas Meyer Dec 7 '10 at 14:11
My not so humble opinion is that Alex's argument applies to people in general, not just gals. One can certainly survive without finery, but I am unable to fathom a life that has no place for beauty. –  J. M. Dec 7 '10 at 14:19
@xport: Even if mathematics were the only subject that these girls were averse to, this particular question seems more suited for someone expert in child psychology than in mathematics. I just do not see how the question is about mathematics. –  Jonas Meyer Dec 7 '10 at 14:19
...and here is something for your perusal. –  J. M. Dec 7 '10 at 14:32
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closed as off topic by Jonas Meyer, Derek Jennings, Robin Chapman, Ross Millikan, Mariano Suárez-Alvarez Dec 7 '10 at 16:56

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3 Answers

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The most important thing you need to do for these girls, more important than teaching them any particular mathematical topic, is to inspire them to have a broader vision of what they might attain in their life. Sure, being a housewife is possible, but also they might aim to be a scientist, doctor, philosopher or engineer; they could be an astronaut or a musical performer or a computer programmer. Why should a young girl decide at a young age on such a narrow and impoverishing plan for their life?

I find it shocking that any young girl would assert such a plan for their life (to say nothing of "most of them" as you mentioned). These girls need urgent direction.

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Our learning curve in mathematics looks like a spiral. If they have no motivation at the beginning, it is harder for the future. I found some collage students cannot do fractional computation. That is really a big problem to go further. :-) –  xport Dec 7 '10 at 15:33
+1 for helping girls have a broader vision of what they might do/be. It's important that they don't feel like being a housewife is settling for less than their full potential, if that is indeed what they want to do given options. It is a very difficult and important job in and of itself. But yes, they should get as much education as possible and make an informed decision about what/who they want to be. –  Daniel Standage Dec 7 '10 at 15:41
+1, Joel. Your answer doesn't have any mathematics in it, but it contains exactly what I wanted to say when I read the question. (Note though that because this is not a math question, differences across cultures may be significant and important here. If the OP were tutoring American students -- and I'm not sure she isn't, but I'm guessing -- then it would be very strange to have even a substantial minority of her clientele list "aspiring housewife" as their life ambition. I can't speak for the rest of the world...) –  Pete L. Clark Dec 7 '10 at 17:42
Yes, Pete, I waffled myself about whether to post. But with a four year-old daughter, I increasingly find the issues of math education and young girls to be important, and so I decided to answer (in community-wiki mode), although in truth I usually encounter the topic in less extreme forms than in the question. As for cultural differences, you are right, but my view is that young girls everywhere might benefit from support for greater aspirations and opportunity. –  JDH Dec 7 '10 at 19:14
+1 for the same reasons. –  Akhil Mathew Dec 7 '10 at 20:32
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Arguably the most important role of a housewife is the raising of children. This is a difficult, often thankless job but no job is more important in the entire world. The more education a mother has, the better prepared she is to help her children experience the world and understand how it works. Mathematics in particular is so very important to quantifying and comparing the relationships that we see all around us, in nature, in populations, and even in the kitchen!

Note: I am not saying that girls should feel obligated to be housewives. My response has the assumption, as stated in the questions, that the girls plan on being housewives.

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FWIW, this is as much a problem in the hard sciences as in mathematics ("why should I #%*&@ care about this?!"). I've no wish to point fingers on why we see this phenomenon, though. On the other hand, I have seen ladies who were both loving mothers and accomplished scientists, so certainly we do not have mutually exclusive conditions to contend with... –  J. M. Dec 7 '10 at 14:29
@J.M., I'm guessing what many people will disagree with from my response is the most important role of a mother. I agree with your point--a woman can be a wonderful mother and an accomplished (insert difficult career here) at the same time. The question as to which is most important, though, is a philosophical question that perhaps I shouldn't have raised here. –  Daniel Standage Dec 7 '10 at 14:38
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I don't believe k-12 mathematics curriculum is optimized from the point of view of helping students understand the nature and usefulness of mathematics when the students are not likely to go on in math and science. I think girls are especially disadvantaged by current curriculum because there are societal factors that already seem to discourage girls from pursing mathematics.

A very short look at my views here can be found in this paper about public perceptions of mathematics:


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