Math anxiety is really common in today’s world and fact has it women are more prone to fear of math and numbers compared to their male counterparts which in turn affects financial decisions and other aspects of life.
In order to inspire girls to get over their fear of math, Brittany Rhodes, mathematician turned tech founder created Black Girl MATHgic, a monthly subscription box service which helps boost math confidence in girls on a third to eighth-grade math skill level. The company’s mission is to help girls succeed in class today and in society tomorrow.
The Detroit-based entrepreneur’s love for maths made her decide to take on Mathematics as her major at Spelman College. Over time while tutoring math at the Downtown Boxing Gym in the McDougall-Hunt neighborhood in 2016, while tutoring her older algebra students, she noticed a pattern: They all struggled with basic mathematics.
“These basic concepts that make the higher-level math so much harder because this is (like) building a house,” she said. “If the foundation is shaky, everything else is going to be shaky.
“I sought to create a product that addresses many of the phenomena that contribute to low math confidence and high math anxiety. I looked at gaps from a racial perspective. There’s a lot of gaps in terms of access to high quality math education – such as access to algebra one courses – which is the gateway to higher level mathematics and higher-level STEM education,” said Rhodes. “It’s not an achievement gap. It’s not an ability gap. It’s not a performance gap. Boys and girls typically do perform about the same in their math ability in the United States. Confidence is where the gap exists,” she explained.
With an emphasis on uplifting Black girls in math, Rhodes began to expand her research.
“This is a real problem. This is not just something anecdotally that I’m seeing in my community. According to Ed.gov, approximately 93% of American adults experience math anxiety on some level. Then when you look at it from a race and gender perspective, that math anxiety, while it impacts everyone, it has a harsher impact on females and people of color,” said Rhodes.
As a continuation of that research, Rhodes leaned into her network of friends with daughters, educators, and academics who she surveyed to gain more insight. “There are several black women PhDs who have written extensively about Black girls and their math experiences. A lot of the data around STEM education either looks at the race component or the gender component. When I first started my research, there were very few studies that were looking at the intersectionality of what a black girls experience was when met with mathematics,” said Rhodes.
“Math anxiety affects females and people of color more than it does the rest of the population,” she said. “Girls struggle when it comes to math and science. They tend to feel less confident than boys do, and that’s girls no matter what race. So you have this gender gap that already exists that we know and is well-documented, and then we have a very wide racial gap.”
It wasn’t until 2018 that Rhodes realized a subscription box service that her husband used could be the template for something bigger. “He had all these boxes coming to the house,” Rhodes said. “I was like, ‘That’s kinda cool. You don’t have to do anything and they’ll send you a box full of what you need.’”
“I wanted to create something where a black girl could very clearly see herself as a learner and doer of math,” she added.
Creating a subscription box that would be “mailed to girls’ homes all over the nation that offered them their own curated math experience” seemed like a genius idea.
That’s how Black Girl MATHgic was born. The name of the service is a play on the popular term “Black Girl Magic,” created by CaShawn Thompson, known on Twitter as @ThePBG, in 2013.
Each month, subscribers will get a box containing a math lesson or activity, items to make the activity tangible (stickers, erasers, and more items that fit within the math theme), a profile of a black female mathematician, and an affirmation to boost self-confidence.
While her target audience is adolescent girls, Rhodes says that adults looking to purchase a subscription are more than welcome.