'Math Girl' Got Mocked for Questioning the Origins of Math, But Now She's a Hero

Robin Zlotnick - Author

Aug. 27 2021, Updated 4:05 p.m. ET

Why does math even exist anyway? If you've never thought about how people even came up with math in the first place, you're either lying or you're not very interested in the ways of the world. But you know who is interested? Gracie Cunningham. Gracie is a teen who went on TikTok and dared to question how we even decided to develop the equations that we are all told to memorize and use in school these days.

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And she went viral for it. But at first, people called it the "dumbest video" they'd ever seen. They criticized Gracie for not being able to recognize all the applications of math that existed back in the day. They were really mean about her perfectly valid questions because she is a teenage girl and teenage girls get no respect (to use the immortal words of Rodney Dangerfield). Well, Gracie, and everybody else, that's about to change.

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In the video, Gracie talks about how she doesn't think math is "real," which she is very correct about. It's a made-up system to understand and describe the world around us, but it's manmade. We could have come up with a totally different system! We don't know! 

She's asking important questions! What made mathematicians and philosophers like Pythagoras decide we even needed a system like mathematics, and what made them choose to describe things the way they did? Gracie says that algebra isn't practical the way addition and subtraction are. So she's just wondering how it even came to be in the first place.

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All good questions. But the person who reposted her video from TikTok called it "the dumbest video I've ever seen." Soon, it went viral, and plenty of party poopers piled on. They failed to see Gracie's video as a legitimate questioning of the things she's being taught and told to memorize.

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Instead, they dismissed her as a teenage girl who couldn't possibly be interested in anything that doesn't revolve around her. The way people dismiss teenage girls is beyond frustrating. Soon, so many people came to Gracie's defense and drowned out the haters with love and support.

Who are these trolls to criticize Gracie for totally valid critical thinking? Get away from her precious mind! People descended from all over the internet to try and protect Gracie from those who were making fun of her.

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"When I say, 'Support women,' I mean her," one person wrote, while quote-tweeting Gracie's video. Someone else wrote, "This is actually a smart video and she is asking great questions that our parents and education system train us to be afraid to ask because there is a huge stigma on actually being wise (knowing what you don't know)."

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Math professor Jordan Ellenberg chimed in to say, "I'm pissed people are mocking this kid. She asks great questions, whose answers aren't obvious, and which math classes should address." 

Soon, Gracie, now known around the internet as "Math Girl," had to address her mega-viral status. So she did it the best way she knows how: by asking questions in a TikTok video. 

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She clarifies some of her questions from the last video and asks a few new very valid ones, including, "Why is everyone being really mean to me on Twitter?" Well, why are you being mean to a curious, engaged teenager? Huh? Why? Stop it! Stop it right now! 

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She also asks why the only people who aren't agreeing with her video are "dumb" while "physicists and mathematicians" are agreeing with her. The answer to that question is that she's smart and asking smart questions and deserves to be listened to and heard. Period.

Gracie used her newfound platform — even while she was being mocked and bullied — to log in to Twitter and post this: 

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So in conclusion, listen to teenage girls. Don't invalidate their extremely valid voices. They deserve to be heard. They deserve to be taken seriously. And Gracie is a national treasure. 

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