The sum of her parts
Ten-year-old Molly Everhart has a lot going on behind her trendy, blue-framed glasses. From American Girl books to fractions, swim practice to science, Molly’s whirlwind of thoughts combine to form the perfect storm of all things young, vibrant and imaginative. And even though on-going stereotypes rate girls’ math and science abilities lower than boys, this Pilot Elementary School fifth-grader is breaking the mold by following in her mother’s mathematical footsteps.
“Math has always been my thing. I just get it,” said Molly’s mother, Ginger Everhart, a math teacher at Davidson County High School. “I love the logic behind it and the fact that if you put the right numbers in you get the right answers out. As a mother and teacher, I want to inspire kids to be excited about math by showing them the real-world applications math can have on their lives.”
Watching mother and daughter together, it’s easy to see that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
“From the time she was a baby, I worked with her (Molly) on counting and recognizing shapes,” Everhart explained. “She learned numbers by counting snacks on her food tray. I’ve always tried to normalize math and make it an everyday, fun part of her life.”
Feeling Less Than
Having taught math for over 13 years, Everhart has seen first hand her share of children with “math problems”.
“Math tends to be the one subject that terrifies people the most,” she said. “If people feel stress and anxiety over math, it usually comes from having a bad experience at an early age which prevents them from understanding the basic skills such as multiplication and long division. Like any subject, math builds on itself. If teachers don’t help kids establish a proper foundation very early on, it can affect their self-confidence throughout their lives.”
Everhart believes that some children who experience poor grades and behavior problems in math class do so because they simply don’t understand. Students overcome by frustration coupled with lack of parental support with homework can make a complicated subject like algebra even more mindboggling.
“If mom or dad did not like math or do well in it in school, that can have a negative impact on a student,” Everhart said. “The good news is there are countless websites that can teach parents how to help their child with homework, while improving their own math skills as well.”
A Numbers Game
When it comes to helping Molly with her homework — despite Everhart’s obvious advantage over most parents by being a teacher herself — Everhart insists it’s all about thinking outside the box and the classroom. She encourages parents to seek out teachable ‘math-moments’ with their child to help them solve some of life’s everyday problems.
“Technology has made it easy for us to forget how to do basic math in our head,” said Everhart. “From counting back change to understanding discounts in stores, consumer math is everywhere and these are skills that are not really taught in school anymore.”
It All Adds Up
While Molly’s natural strong suit is math, her mother equally supports her daughter’s interest in science and technology. In July, Molly participated in a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) camp held by Davidson County Community College where she sharpened her problem solving and critical thinking skills by learning how to build and program a robot on an advanced manufacturing mobile lab.
Robots and computations aside, like most girls her age, Molly is a magical combination of silliness and precocity. A voracious reader who's been known to take a book into the bathtub, Molly’s effortless ability to wrangle a word problem or fly through fractions is part and parcel of her youthful whimsy.
When asked what she would like to be when she grows up, Molly fiddles with her pale, blonde hair and chews her Kool-Aid stained lips.
“Um…(insert very long pause here), I’d like to be a swim coach,” said Molly gazing hard at the ceiling and giggling. “Or maybe a doctor.”
Glancing over at her daughter and shaking her head, Everhart laughs, too.
“Well, there you have it. But, if she ever decides to pursue a career in math or science, I want her to be ready,” her mom said. “It’s still very much a ‘man’s world’ out there, but at least she will be able to hold her own.”
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