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Study: Teachers Transmit Math Anxiety to Students

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Is math anxiety contagious? It could be. And, that may help explain why elementary school girls start to fear mathematics at an early age, the Associated Press reports. It’s possible that young girls pick up their unease with numbers from female teachers who are anxious about their own math skills, a new University of Chicago study found.

While girls have been making some progress in recent years, the AP says, they still trail boys in some areas of math achievement. Ninety percent of elementary-school teachers in the U.S. are women, and previous research found that college elementary education majors have higher levels of math anxiety than any other major. And those math-phobic teachers may be inadvertently passing along their angst to their female students, since kids tend to model themselves on adults of the same gender.

The study followed 52 boys, 65 girls and 17 teachers (who were 90 percent female). At the end of a year, girls whose teachers harbored doubts about their own numeracy skills were more likely than boys to say: boys were better at math, while girls were better at reading. Moreover, the girls who answered that way tended to have lower math scores than either the boys or the girls who had not bought into the stereotype.

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