Photo Credit: Rifka Schonfeld

As a woman who founded my own company and authored several books, I often have parents asking me how they can promote their daughters natural abilities. Today, we’ve seen more and more frum women entering the workforce in high-powered jobs. How can we support our daughters and their futures? Here are some thoughts.

Q: I know that traditionally boys are better at math than girls, but how can I help my daughter excel in math?

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A: There is a common misconception that boys are better at math than girls, or that men are better with numbers than women. In fact, this false impression is so prevalant that the U.S. Department of Education created a statement to combat it:

“Although there is a general perception that men do better than women in math and science, researchers have found that the differences between women’s and men’s math and science-related abilities and choices are much more subtle and complex than a simple ‘men are better than women in math and science.’”

Until recently, the scientific community believed that male-female differences in math and science were caused by biology. In other words, because boys’ and girls’ brains are wired differently, the two genders are better suited for different subjects. The notion is that boys have superior spatial abilities, making them better suited for certain mathematical manipulations. Girls, on the other hand, are supposed to be better at language and writing. However, recently, this biological argument has been debunked.

Over the past two decades, researchers have focused on the influence of a child’s environment on his or her math and science achievement. Think about what toys boys and girls are given to play with, even from a very young age. Boys are encouraged to play with blocks, Legos, racing cars, and other moving objects. Girls, on the other hand, are pushed to play with dolls, toy kitchens, and dress-up clothing. While boys’ toys often involve principles inherent in math and science, girls’ toys focus on imagination and creativity. From these early experiences, it’s easy to understand why girls gravitate to English and history and boys are drawn to math and science.

How can you help your daughter excel in math and science? Below are some suggestions:

            Choose toys thoughtfully. Encourage your daughters to play with building toys and support your boys in imaginative play. Both the left and right sides of your child’s brain will grow from these alternative types of play.

            Talk to your child’s teacher. Find out what your child is doing in math and science at school. Does he or she come home excited about fun experiments in school? If not, maybe you can do some fun science experiments at home: cook up a volcano, shine some pennies in vinegar or make your own rock candy.

            Promote math and science courses in high school. Competitive colleges want to see students who took advanced math and science courses – don’t let your daughters shy away from these classes.

            Provide strong role models. If the mother in the family does not feel comfortable with math, then look towards other females who are mathematically or scientifically inclined.

Q: It seems as if boys are diagnosed with ADHD much more than girls. Can girls have ADHD? How can you tell?

A: For years, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has been diagnosed as a predominantly male syndrome. While it’s true that the majority of those suffering from ADHD are male, there are a surprising amount of women who deal with ADHD. According to one study at Harvard University, about forty percent of those with ADHD are women – except that many women with ADHD are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.

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An acclaimed educator and social skills ​specialist​, Mrs. Rifka Schonfeld has served the Jewish community for close to thirty years. She founded and directs the widely acclaimed educational program, SOS, servicing all grade levels in secular as well as Hebrew studies. A kriah and reading specialist, she has given dynamic workshops and has set up reading labs in many schools. In addition, she offers evaluations G.E.D. preparation, social skills training and shidduch coaching, focusing on building self-esteem and self-awareness. She can be reached at 718-382-5437 or at rifkaschonfeld@gmail.com.