Emily, no, I didn't mean to imply that you thought math was hard, 
although that is a myth (remember Barbie "Math is hard"?) about women. 
So I wanted to make the point that math isn't any harder for women than 
men, other than the social prescriptions that lead to Barbie-isms.

What does rather shock me is that the response of some on the list is to 
defend math, and a mathematical view of coding, just when they have been 
told that doesn't always work for everyone. I will use Bess's talk at 
c4l13 as an example:

paraphrasing Bess: I was going to call my talk "being an evangelist for 
your open source project." A friend who is Jewish told me he isn't 
comfortable with "evangelist" because it is a Christian-themed term. So, 
I changed the name of my talk.

Another approach she could have taken was to explain to her friend that 
1) his feeling is wrong and 2) evangelist is not only just fine as a 
term, and is even the best term for what she means.

I agree with what you say here: "you can get a lot of good coding done 
with a natural aptitude for logic and pattern, not necessarily math or 
computer science." But someone will undoubtedly feel threatened by that 
and will explain that to be a GOOD coder or a REAL coder, you've got to 
know math. In other words, there's an us and them, and US is better than 

I despair of ever getting through to some folks.


On 2/22/13 10:08 AM, Emily Morton-Owens wrote:
> I can't tell whether you're agreeing with me, or disagreeing with me, or
> just riffing off of what I said, but I hope you didn't take what I said to
> imply that women think math is hard, or are bad at math, or that I
> presently think I'm terrible at math! Actually, through learning
> programming, I got into formal computer science, and discovered a form of
> math (discrete math/algorithms) that I aced! Which would have shocked a
> younger me.
> But I never would've gotten there by a path that related coding to "math"
> in the way I pictured it at the high school/college level. Math -> coding
> isn't a leap I would've taken. Languages -> coding -> algorithms worked for
> me. Maybe for someone else the path would be to relate coding to something
> else they like, such as business analysis, or gaming, or some other
> connection that's equally relevant and more personally motivating. A good
> mentor could find that connection for a student.
> If we're talking at cross purposes here, it's probably because of the
> difference between programming and computer science. As others have said,
> you can get a lot of good coding done with a natural aptitude for logic and
> pattern, not necessarily math or computer science.
> On Fri, Feb 22, 2013 at 7:30 AM, Karen Coyle <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>> On 2/21/13 7:48 PM, Emily Morton-Owens wrote:
>>> This was just the right thing to say, because he was connecting it to
>>> something that I consider myself talented at (languages), rather than
>>> something I don't (math).
>> I want to clear up the "math is hard" and "programming is math" myths.
>> First, the ratio of women to men in graduate math programs is approaching
>> 50/50, although women are still struggling to be hired and gain tenure in
>> math departments. So "math is hard" for many of us, but it's not
>> necessarily a gender thing. (I'm looking for the cite for this -- I've done
>> too much random reading recently and didn't mark this. May be book below.)

Karen Coyle
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