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## Waterloo Quality

### At Think About Math, fun is the common denominator

Grade 9 girls get hands-on experience at the Think About Math! conference to ignite enthusiasm for mathematics.

“What does a female math grad look like? She’s not the typical nerd with glasses.”

“What does math have to do with real life?” (Insert whine here.)

Sound familiar?

For many high school students struggling to give meaning to abstract mathematical concepts, math is something to endure rather than love. But for 40 Grade 9 girls who attend Waterloo’s annual Think About Math! conference, they discover that math will actually help them land a successful career.

Hosted by the Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing, the weekend event pushes fun and socializing, but seminars get the girls thinking about how math can change their lives, says Fiona Dunbar, the conference organizer.

“I just don’t want to see girls get left behind. At that age they can get so focused on body image and looking pretty,” she says.

Bursting stereotypes is the first step. In order to make that happen, last year the girls analyzed real data supplied by Waterloo’s female mathematics alumni that gave detailed information about their career paths. These women, the girls discovered, were doing it all. They were actuaries, consultants, software developers, financial analysts, and CEOs. Some were world travellers. Many had kids.

Dunbar is convinced a light went off for many of the teens who equated math with academia and nothing else.

“What does a female math grad look like? She’s not the typical nerd with glasses. These are businesswomen and executives,” she says. “Math gives you such a great foundation for problem solving.”

Dates for 2010 are: Thursday, April 29 to Sunday, May 2 and Thursday, May 27 to Sunday, May 30.