A study has revealed that female elementary school teachers anxious about math inadvertently transmit those fears to their female students.
Researchers at the University of Chicago found that the more anxious teachers were about math, the more likely girls, but not boys, were to be passed the stereotype that "boys are good at math and girls are good at reading."
Principal investigator Sian Beilock, Associate Professor in Psychology and the Committee on Education at the University of Chicago, observed that girls who accepted this typecast did significantly worse in the subject than girls who did not accept the stereotype and than boys overall.
Beilock said: "Having a highly math-anxious female teacher may push girls to confirm the stereotype that they are not as good as boys at math, which in turn, affects girls' math achievement.
Beilock added: "Thus it may be that first- and second-grade girls are more likely to be influenced by their teachers' anxieties than their male classmates, because most early elementary school teachers are female and the high levels of math anxiety in this teacher population confirm a societal stereotype about girls' math ability."
Other authors of the paper were University graduate students Elizabeth Gunderson and Gerardo Ramirez as well as Susan Levine, Stella M. Rowley Professor of Psychology, Comparative Human Development, and the Committee on Education at the University of Chicago.
The study, "Female Teachers' Math Anxiety Affects Girls' Math Achievement", was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.