Teacher anxieties may subtract from girls’ math scores | Science News


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Teacher anxieties may subtract from girls’ math scores

In some classes, a female teacher’s worry over math can do a number on girls’ early achievement

3:45pm, January 25, 2010

Here's a disturbing equation: Anxiety about doing math, plus female elementary school teachers, equals a drag on math achievement for some first- and second-grade girls.

Female teachers’ discomfort with math encourages girls in these early grades to embrace the stereotype that girls don’t deal with numbers as well as boys, contends a team led by psychologist Sian Beilock of the University of Chicago. By the end of the school year in each grade, girls who pick up on that negative typecasting score lower on a math achievement test, on average, than girls who don’t, the researchers report online January 25 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Encouragingly, a majority of girls in the new study regarded themselves as boys’ equals in math ability and scored as well as boys on an end-of-year achievement test. Boys’ scores did not vary depending on whether they believed that boys grasp math better than girls.


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