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Female Teachers Pass on Math Anxieties
Date:1/25/2010

Girls in their classes performed worse and had stereotypical notions about boys' math prowess, study found

MONDAY, Jan. 25 (HealthDay News) -- Female elementary school teachers who are anxious about their math skills seem to pass on that lack of confidence to their female students, new research suggests.

Girls in their classes more likely to believe that boys were better than girls at math. And at the end of the school year, girls in the classrooms of math-anxious teachers had lower achievement in math than boys.

"The more anxious a teacher was, the more likely a girl was to believe boys are good at math and girls are good at reading, and the more likely she was to perform worse at math relative to boys and to girls who don't endorse the stereotype," said study author Sian Beilock, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Chicago.

About 90 percent of the nation's elementary school teachers are female, according to the study in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Beilock and her colleagues assessed 17 first- and second-grade teachers' anxiety about math at the beginning of the school year. To gauge stereotypical notions, the students, including 52 boys and 65 girls, were told gender-neutral stories about students who were good at math or good at reading and asked to draw a picture of the student.

At the beginning of the year, there was no relationship between teacher anxiety and the students' math abilities. In fact, there was no difference in math abilities between boys and girls.

But toward the end of the school year, the higher a teacher's math anxiety, the lower the girls' math achievement. Teacher anxieties did not affect boys similarly.

The study also found that the more anxious female teachers were about math, the more likely girls were to ascribe to the stereotype that "boys are good at math and girls are go
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