The title of this paper says it all--when female elementary school
teachers are anxious about mathematics, their female students pay the
academic price. The study looked at seventeen first- and second-grade
female-led classrooms at the beginning and the end of the school year.
Each teacher completed a test of math anxiety, a condition, explain the
authors, which is not a reflection of ability, but of how fear inhibits
the math-phobic from tapping into their knowledge. By June, female
students taught by math-anxious female teachers were performing worse on
math achievement tests than female students taught by teachers with no
math anxiety and than boys overall. The authors hypothesize that this
can be explained by gender stereotyping, which they tested by having
students illustrate a story about two (gender-unidentified) students,
one who was good at math and one who was good at reading. Girls in
classrooms with math–anxious female teachers were more likely to draw a
boy who was good at math and a girl who was good at reading.
Unfortunately, math has long been known as the weakest subject for
elementary school teachers--and over 90 percent of them are female. Yet
another reason for more rigorous content preparation and/or elementary
math content specialists? You can read it here.
Sian L. Beilock, Elizabeth A Gunderson, Gerardo Ramirez, and Susan C. Levine
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences