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Teaching Math Anxiety

March 3, 2010

Female teachers may pass their own math anxiety to the girls they teach.


Is math anxiety contagious? I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Young girls may pick up math anxiety from their female teachers. This according to University of Chicago psychologists Sian Beilock, Elizabeth Gunderson and Gerardo Ramirez. They measured math anxiety in female elementary school teachers, as well as their students’ tendencies to think boys are better at math than girls. Gunderson says that at the start of the school year, the two were unrelated.

ELIZABETH GUNDERSON (University of Chicago):
But by the end of the year, the higher the teacher’s math anxiety, the more likely the girls were to endorse that gender stereotype.

… And the worse the girls actually performed in math. But boys’ achievement and gender attitudes were unaffected. Beilock says more math training for grade school teachers, who are overwhelmingly female, may help reduce this contagious anxiety. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.