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Study: Girls Learn Math Anxiety from Teachers

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Female teachers seem to pass on anxiety about math to their girl students. Chicago researchers spell out the link in a journal article published today.

The study looked at 17 first- and second-grade teachers – all women. Researchers measured how much anxiety the teachers had about math. Then they tested math achievement for their students. At the beginning of the year, there was no correlation between the students’ math skills and their teachers’ math anxiety. But University of Chicago psychology professor Sian Beilock says by year’s end, something happened.

BEILOCK: The higher a teacher’s math anxiety, the more likely the girls in her classroom, were to be performing worse at math.

The correlation did not hold for male students – only the girls. Beilock says female students of the anxious teachers were also more likely to believe the stereotype that boys are good at math and girls are good at reading. The findings are out in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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