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Some Female Teachers Bring Girls Down

teachers-with-math-anxiety-increase-math-gender-gapHey, ladies, are you bad at math? Know who might be to blame? Mrs. Rutledge, your second-grade teacher, because she was bad at math too!

(A nice break for your mother, who is to blame for all of your other shortcomings.)

A new study shows female teachers who are scared of math teach their girl students to fear it as well. The result? A gender gap.

The study looked at elementary school teachers — specifically females — who said they struggle with math and have math anxiety. Researchers found such teachers were more likely to believe that boys are hard-wired for math and that girls are more skilled in language.

They passed on this belief to their female students.

Not surprisingly, girls who bought into that notion scored significantly lower on math tests than their peers who didn’t make the gender/talents distinction.

From the LA Times:

“Teachers who are anxious about their own math abilities are translating some of that to their kids,” said University of Chicago psychologist Sian Beilock, who led the study published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

This was the first study to look at math attitudes among teachers and test whether they could spread to students.

Here’s how it worked: students were tested at the beginning of first and second grade. Later in the year, they were tested again. Teachers, all female, were surveyed about their attitudes and abilities in math.

Gaps in performance weren’t found in the first round of tests in the fall. But a difference did emerge by the end of the year in classes where the teacher had reported math anxieties.

Researchers weren’t sure how the anxiety — and therefore lower performance — was expressed. Did teachers call on boys more often? Did they use a different tone with girls? Did they dismiss the girls all together?

Call me an intellectual snob, but I think that teachers with math anxiety at the first- and second-grade level is tragic. Sure, have your struggles in calculus. But addition and subtraction? Simple fractions? Word problems? Work that out before you head a classroom. And, by all means, blame yourself not your gender.

Women giggling and claiming and inability to do math in front of a crowd — students or otherwise — gets on my nerves nearly as much as women calling themselves “bad” for ordering dessert.

It’s not funny. You’re not naughty. Let’s get out of that girl ghetto and take our daughters with us.

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Photo: howstuffworks.com

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