Given the work we do here at Achieve, we are well aware of the general anxiety that pervades any and all discussions about mathematics education, especially when it come to what math all students need in high school to graduate college and career ready. We have even pointed out the uniquely American attitude that only certain people are innately gifted and can do math - as opposed to the more common view among our international peers that with hard work and perseverance anyone can learn advanced mathematics. All of those jokes about "not being able to balance my checkbook" might be funny if it didn't reveal a serious deficiency which impacts us all: mathematics is the foundation for innovation, which in turn drives our economy and standard of living. And you don't need to be a PhD to need math; many good, high-paying and attractive jobs that require less than four- year degree require workers to have a solid foundation in advanced mathematics.
So it was with great interest that we noticed this week that Barbie, after an on-line contest sponsored by Barbie’s maker Mattel, was given a new career as a computer engineer! The new Barbie will be on store shelves in the fall. She comes complete with a pink laptop, cute pink glasses, a Smartphone and a casual workplace appropriate outfit that includes a t-shirt covered in binary code.
Apparently over the years Barbie has gotten a lot better at math and we are sure that Computer Engineer Barbie not only graduated from high school having taken Algebra II and beyond, but succeeded in college level mathematics too. This is a far cry from 1992's Teen Talk Barbie who was heard to say "Math Class is Tough," (in addition to “Wanna have a pizza party? and “Will we ever have enough clothes?”) until an uproar over the phrase caused Mattel to stop including it in Barbie’s computer chip (ironic!). Barbie also obviously had some excellent career counseling as computer engineering is one of the fastest growing industries, with opportunities across the nation and a median wage that nearly doubles the national average.
We like the new Barbie, we like that she has overcome her math anxiety, taken a rigorous curriculum, reached her career goals and that she sets a good example for young girls. It seems to us that Computer Engineer Barbie may very well have benefited from the growing national consensus that all students must graduate from high school ready for college and careers -- and that includes leaving high school with a strong foundation in advanced mathematics.