Math Gender Stereotypes Start as Early as 2nd Grade

Filed under: In The News, Weird But True, Education: Big Kids

gender and stereotypes

Little boys love trains, toys and math? Credit: Getty/AFP Images

Some sobering news for parental foes of sex stereotypes: A new study reinforces the devastating impact stereotypes can have on girls when it comes to math.

Little boys may love their trains and toys, but as early as second grade they're already showing prowess on the mathematical front, sending a subliminal message to their female classmates about expectations for math test scores and even potential career paths, according to a new study, "Today" reports.

Researchers at the Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences at the University of Washington studied 247 American children between the ages of 6 and 10 and found that second grade boys identified with math more strongly than girls. The study was published in Wiley's Child Development.

Dario Cvencek, the study's lead author and researcher tells "Today" the study sends a message about long-term performance anxiety and what girls can and can't do.

Parents should make a conscious effort to counter these subliminal messages, Cvencek tells "Today." He suggests parents find movies and cartoons that offset these messages by showing girls doing math and science, and to make an effort to talk about these stereotypes.

The stereotype affects teachers, too, as a study published in Science Daily in January of 2010 suggests female elementary school teachers who are anxious about math pass their fears on to their female students.

Researchers at the University of Chicago studied almost 20 first and second grade teachers and 52 boy and 62 girl students, finding that math performance for boys had nothing to do with their teacher's math anxiety, while girls picked up on that and absorbed that into their own performance, Science Daily reports.

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