Would it surprise you to learn that the world’s first computer programmer was a woman? And a woman born more than 100 years before the first computer was ever invented? Ada’s Ideas is an amazing, picture book biography of Ada Lovelace, documenting her life and creativity in mathematics that far surpassed the capabilities of her time. It was also the perfect inspiration for preschool STEM activities with our own FREE printable punch cards. Be sure to grab your own ABC and Number Punch Cards at the end of this post.
Inspiring STEM for Girls
As a former finance major, I spent most of my junior and senior year of college in finance courses where if I was lucky, I was one of 4 women in a class of 40 students. Post graduation, I spent most of my career as the only female finance professional in my office and frequently the only woman sitting around the conference table.
More than a decade after I graduated college, women are STILL drastically under-represented in STEM fields and, by their own choosing, STEM degrees.
The rates of science and engineering course taking for girls/women shift at the undergraduate level and gender disparities begin to emerge…While women receive over half of bachelor’s degrees awarded in the biological sciences, they receive far fewer in the computer sciences (17.9%), engineering (19.3%), physical sciences (39%) and mathematics (43.1%).
Encouraging young girls’ interest in math and science from an early age is the first way to change that. And finding awesome female role models, like Ada Lovelace, and telling their stories plays a great part. In no way does that make this book, story or activity any less relevant for preschool boys, but as a mother who lived this, with two daughters of my own, I make it a point to make them excited about math and science every chance I get!Inspire STEM for Girls with Ada's Ideas #STEAMKids #STEMforGirls #printables Click To Tweet
Ada’s Ideas, The Story of Ada Lovelace
Ada lived a bit of a fairy tale life during the early 1800s. The daughter of Lord Byron, the famous British poet, and a wealthy heiress and skilled mathematician, Anne Isabella Milbanke, it is no surprise Ada became a brilliant, creative mathematician herself.
Her mother, fearful of Lord Byron’s bold and reckless ways, left him when Ada was an infant, and raised her daughter herself. She emphasized intensive studies of math, music, and French. As part of the aristocracy of her day, Ada toured the brand new factories of the Industrial Revolution and rubbed elbows with the intellectual elite – including Charles Babbage, the famous inventor.
Working with Babbage on his Analytical Engine, which used punched cards to program and derive calculations, Ada wrote the engine’s first algorithm. That algorithm is what is now recognized as the world’s first computer program, making Ada the first computer programmer.
Ada saw tremendous potential in the Analytical Engine – far beyond it’s inventor. She believed it could one day be used to make pictures, music and words. The Analytical Engine was never built due to costs, and it would be more than 100 years before the first working computers were created, and Ada’s vision became a reality.
Ada’s Ideas depicts this incredible story in brilliant illustrations, created Japanese watercolors cut out and assembled to create images with depth and dimension. Even the punched card end papers are works of art!
Number Punch Cards for Preschool STEM Activities
My girls were intrigued by the concept of punched cards, so I used their enthusiasm for a little hands-on learning through play. You can download your own set of Number Punch Cards below to use in a number of preschool STEM activities.
Download and print your cards on heavy cardstock to create a re-useable math manipulative. The Number punch cards are great for working on number recognition. Use a hole punch to punch holes in the cards to strengthen little hands and fine motor skills. With the number of holes corresponding to each number, it’s also a great reinforcement of one-to-one correspondence.
STEM Meets Literacy: ABC Punch Cards
My 3 year old is continuing to work on her letter recognition skills, so I also created a set of ABC Punch Cards.
Similar to the Number cards, you can use them for letter recognition. Let your preschooler punch out the holes in each letter to strengthen their fine motor skills. And once they are all punched, you can use them as a template for letter formation too! Place the letter card on paper, dot each hole, then remove the card and connect the dots to form the letters.
You can find more inspiring STEM activities for girls and ALL preschoolers in our Studying the Stars and Architecture and Engineering for Kids series. Follow our STEM for Girls and STEM boards on Pinterest to see all our favorite science, technology, engineering and math ideas from around the web. And we’d love to see how you use our punch cards too! Share pictures to our Facebook wall any time or tag us on Instagram with @PGPBMeghan!
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