Thursday, November 9, 2017

Stop saying GIRLS can't do MATH

     Found at, this poem by Brenda Cárdenas that, like too many others portrays a girl in a can't do-math situation.  Another aspect of the poem, however, is its Spanish-language descriptions of Hispanic contributions to mathematics.  And, despite my protest, I find this a lovely poem and worth sharing.

     Calculations     by Brenda Cárdenas

     “I don’t know what to tell you.
     Your daughter doesn’t understand
     math. Numbers trouble her, leave
     her stuck on ground zero.”

                                    Y fueron los mayas
                                    quienes imaginaron el cero,
                                    un signo para nada, para todo,
                                    en sus gran calculaciones.

                     Is zero the velvet swoop into dream,
                     the loop into plumes of our breath?    

     “I suggest you encourage languages.
     Already she knows a little Spanish,
     and you can teach her more of that.
     She lives for story time.”

                     In the beginning there was nothing.
                     Then the green of quetzal wings.

                                    Las historias siguen cambiando,
                                    sus verdades vigorizadas
                                    con cada narración
                                    como X x X = X²

This poem is included in Cárdenas' collection Boomerang (Bilingual Press, 2009).  Translations of the Spanish stanzas are offered below, obtained at this website:

                                    And it was the Maya
                                    who imagined the zero,
                                    a sign for nothing, for everything,
                                    in their great calculations.

                                    Stories keep changing,
                                    their energized truths
                                    with each narration
                                    as X x X = X²


  1. I think that's a lovely poem - the reclaiming of something ancient. Mathematics as something rich and cultural; a deeper "understanding" than the one the teacher's voice refers to.

    An alternate translation of the final stanza (based on my middling Spanish) might be:

    The stories keep changing,
    their truths invigorated
    by every telling
    like X x X = X^2.