Women teachers transfer their fear of doing math to girls

January, 2010

A study involving first- and second-grade teachers found that boys' math performance was not related to their (female) teacher's math anxiety while girls' math achievement was.

Consistent with studies showing that gender stereotypes can worsen math performance in females, a year-long study involving 17 first- and second-grade teachers and their 52 boy and 65 girl students has found that boys' math performance was not related to their (female) teacher's math anxiety while girls' math achievement was. Early elementary school teachers in the United States are almost exclusively female. Math achievement was unrelated to teacher math anxiety in both boys and girls at the beginning of the school year. Moreover, achievement was negatively associated with belief in gender stereotypes. Girls who confirmed a belief that boys are better in math than girls scored six points lower in math achievement than did boys or girls who had not developed a belief in the stereotype (102 versus 108). Research has found that elementary education majors have the highest rate of mathematics anxiety of any college major.

Reference: 

[1450] Beilock SL, Gunderson EA, Ramirez G, Levine SC. Female teachers’ math anxiety affects girls’ math achievement. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences [Internet]. 2010 ;107(5):1860 - 1863. Available from: http://www.pnas.org/content/107/5/1860.abstract

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