Math Anxiety May be Passed from Female Teachers to Girls, Study Shows

Filed under: In The News, Education: Big Kids, Research Reveals: Big Kids

Are teachers to blame for girls' math anxiety? Credit: nab_nabb2003, Flickr

The idea some girls have that they're not good at math may not have started in their heads, but in the heads of their female elementary school teachers.

According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, a new study has found that elementary teachers "anxious about mathematics" pass that unease along to their female students. Specifically, female teachers instructing first- and second-graders believed that boys are better at math, while girls excel at reading.

The study measured test scores before and after students spent a year with a teacher anxious over math. Test scores for girl students were lower than their male and female peers who did not have the same apprehensions about the subject, the article reports.

While the researchers are not clear how the anxiety is transferred within a class, it may have to do with girls being chosen "to solve math problems less frequently" or boys receiving more compliments, the Times reports.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was conducted by Sian L. Beilock, Elizabeth A. Gunderson, Gerardo Ramirez and Susan C. Levine.

The research is the first to look at "math attitudes of teachers" and how they can effect students and their math "performance," according to the newspaper. Although anxiousness over math is "more common among women," the Times reports, such feelings about math are not "related to math abilities."

Related: Math Made Easy

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.