We’re delighted to share math insights from Dr. Leonisa Ardizzone, Ed.D. Founder and President of Storefront Science in New York City. Let’s see what this creative and seasoned science educator has to say about math!
1. What is your favorite math memory?
When I was young, I showed a facility for math that definitely made my dad happy. He had me learning fractions at 5 and doing algebra by 8. He was definitely one of my math role models so it’s no surprise that my favorite math memory involves him. When I was little, my dad was a mechanical contractor and fire sprinkler installer, and he would take me on jobs with him. I loved learning how things worked. I also recall sitting at my dad’s work table in front of a roll of blueprints. When he was bidding on jobs, he would have me do measurement and calculations off of those blue prints. It definitely made me realize that math made sense!
2. What advice do you have for parents who want to create a math-friendly environment?
As a parent as well, I think the best thing we can do is not treat math as something scary, nerdy, unnecessary, or as something that is for “a select group of smart people.” We have to try not to pass along any of our own fears or biases. Rather, I think all parents, regardless of their comfort level with math, should encourage math appreciation. Some simple ideas: point out patterns you see in nature or buildings, play counting games when walking down the street, play cards or other games, and encourage building or drawing to scale/proportion.
3. Girls often like and excel in math in the early grades, but do not pursue degrees or careers in math later on. How can we involve and retain more girls in math?
I think about girls in STEM all the time! I believe something cultural happens right around middle school where girls “learn” that the external virtues matter more than their internal ones, and this includes the powers of their brains. At some point, girls stop thinking that their skills in math are a good thing, and instead think that they should hide this ability. Fixing this is a tall order, but we simply must find a way.
Knowing that girls learn in connection to other people and value social relationships and social structures, math curriculum should be more project-based and oriented to the real world. Doing projects that are tied to the community (such as a community park redesign) could help with this retention. I also think that girls need to be exposed to math and science role models. If middle and high school girls meet women engineers, mathematicians, and physicists, maybe they will better see what opportunities there are for them.
4. How do we inspire kids of all cultures and backgrounds to embrace math?
In some ways the answer to this is a combination of my answers from 2 and 3, but we can also take it a step further and show kids from diverse backgrounds how math has meaning in the world and in their cultural history. I have an adopted brother from Guatemala – part indigenous – and when he was little I would spend time with him talking about the mathematical gifts of the Mayan people. He liked it! And so did I…
5. Thanks to math we can…build mind-blowingly beautiful structures like the Coliseum in Rome, the Burj Khalifa and the George Washington Bridge!