For Girls, the Fruits of Success Can Grow from a Strong Start in STEM

Alamy October 11 is International Day of the Girl Child, set aside by the UN “to help galvanize worldwide enthusiasm for goals to better girls’ lives, providing an opportunity for them to show leadership and reach their full potential.”

In other nations, any number of issues may hold girls back, but here in the U.S., one of the biggest barriers to that realization of full potential is academic: While 60 percent of college degrees go to women, only about 41 percent of high-paying engineering and science degrees do. And, to make things worse, the numbers of women in STEM professions — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — have remained stagnant since 2000.

One way to remedy that is by early intervention — finding ways to get younger girls involved in STEM, and then keep them enthusiastic about it. Numerous programs with have been launched with that goal in mind, by companies as diverse as PBS and Marvel Comics, — not to mention individual states to the federal government.

But beyond those, there are a lot of apps, online games and other programs that you can use to help the girl in your life learn important money lessons. Here are a few of our favorites:

Money Lessons from a Financial Guru

Various companies, notably Funny Money, have tried the technique of using short videos to teach valuable money lessons. The best of the bunch is probably Warren Buffett’s Secret Millionaire’s Club — although, to be honest, it’s a pretty low bar. As I wrote a few months ago, the SMC lessons have a lot going for them: They’re short, simple, and easy-to-understand, with lively humor and pretty solid graphics. On the other hand, they also tend to get a bit surreal, and are occasionally a little outdated. Still, if you’re looking for a quick, effective way to teach your children about basic money topics, Warren Buffett’s show is a great place to start.

Math Puzzles

As one might expect, there are a lot of solid math games and apps out there. If your child likes puzzles and you want to focus on straight math skills, you might start with some programs aimed at younger kids, like Kids Numbers and Math Lite or Bugs and Numbers. For older children, Math Workout, Algebra Tutor and Dragon Box Algebra all offer interesting, engaging ways to segue into more advanced math concepts.

Entrepreneurship Games

On the entrepreneurship front, some fun standouts include Tiny Tower, a sort of mini SimCity, albeit with very old fashioned graphics; The Game of Life, an app-based version of the old-fashioned budgeting game, or Bee Farming, a business/marketing game that neatly hides the bitter pill of math education in a spoonful of … well, honey. And while these are particularly good, there are literally hundreds of other great games out there that can teach your favorite girl about the basics of budgeting and investment.

Real World

Sooner or later, your favorite girl will enter the real world and will have to start budgeting on her own. Some schools are using Junior Achievement’s JA Finance Park Virtual to teach their students about real-life budgeting and spending. Even without school involvement, you can log in and try it out. Or, if you’re interested in giving a little more real-world guidance, there are simple budgeting programs like P2K, Tykoon and Kids Money that can help out.

Bruce Watson is DailyFinance’s Savings Editor. You can reach him by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.

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