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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCSB chapter.

Unlike its traditional, stereotypically “black and white” counterpart, Girl Math is an enigma: it’s objective, but also subjective — logical, but incredulous. Like, yes, $130 was added to my account after returning some clothes, which is not technically income, but now I have an extra $130 to spend. 

And yes, I went to Target and spent $60 in cash, but it doesn’t really count as spending because paying in cash just feels like throwing around Monopoly money. Any traditional “black and white” way of crunching numbers would prove this is not the case. It’s a good thing the field of mathematics is anything but. 

The notion that mathematics is such a curt, rigid field of study is a fallacy: “conventional” mathematics taught in schools is for the sole purpose of learning to fix simple scenarios with simple solutions — like figuring out how many apples you have if Johnny gives you 2 and Sarah gives you 7.

Just like life, and especially a woman’s life, very few things in mathematics are well-defined and clear cut with a single answer or set of answers. As Stanford mathematician Keith Devlin writes, “knowing how to solve an equation is no longer a valuable human ability; what matters now is formulating the equation to solve that problem in the first place.”

And isn’t that kind of the same as Girl Math? It’s less about, “I have 5 quarters and $30 in cash, can I afford to purchase something that costs $31.50?” and more about, “How can I manipulate and perceive numbers and objects in relation to my surroundings?” That question is exactly how mathematics came to be, and also how, according to Girl Math, 5 quarters and $30 in cash adds up to be $31.25, leaving you $0.25 short of your $31.50 purchase unless you split the payment method between cash and card, where you’ll technically be spending only $0.25 since cash doesn’t feel that real in the first place.

Although financially questionable (I can’t continue to leave Freebirds out of my monthly budgeting because I consider it a non-negotiable), Girl Math is not only a testament to women’s experiences, but also the attitudes needed to advance mathematics and tackle difficult problems. It is also proof (badum tss!) women have long deserved to participate in mathematics — not just for representation’s sake, but for the sake of modern mathematics and mathematical discovery as we know it. 

I could go on forever about how I think we’d all benefit from having women in front of the whiteboard. That being said, if this article made you even a little interested in the field of mathematics, I’d like to leave you with some resources to further pursue that interest, regardless of your age, skill level, major, or interests:

First, the UCSB Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM) is a chapter of a larger organization focused on empowering women and gender minorities in mathematical sciences. Any non-man interested in mathematics is welcome to join and attend their meetings. There are also plenty of women mathematics professors here at UCSB who would love to not only help you with math homework or questions, but also speak to undergraduate women about their experience with mathematics and navigating the field as a woman. Just pull up to their office hours or shoot them an email! And for those who are considering a graduate degree in mathematics, the GROW conference is a great way to receive mentorship from women mathematicians. 

Although resources for women in mathematics are lacking compared to those of other topics in STEM (ex: women in computer science, biology, chemistry, etc.), there is clearly a tight-knit and supportive community to cheer on every girl at every point in their mathematical journey. 

So keep counting direct deposit refunds as free money — the world depends on it. 

First year Biopsychology major and Mathematics minor at UCSB. When I’m not caught up in 3-hour labs or entangled in tricky U-subs, I’m usually listening to Frank Ocean, spending too much on perfume, or collecting Sonny Angels 👼.