Female Teachers Might Negatively Influence Girls’ Math Abilities, Study Finds

When your child goes to school, she’s learning a whole lot more than reading, writing, and arithmetic. As it turns out, your child might be negatively impacted about her math abilities based on her teacher’s own anxiety about the subject matter.

Sure, teachers should be able to embolden students into feeling like they can conquer any subject matter, except one—math. In the study, “Female Teachers’ Math Anxiety Affects Girls’ Math Achievement,” researchers found that by the end of the school year, the majority of girls believed that boys were good at math while girls were good at reading. This negative outlook was influenced by the teachers’ own anxiety about math. Case in point: the girls who felt this way scored lower on math achievement tests than male students.

So what’s causing this unnecessary (and negative) academic influence? “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,” Sian Beilock, Associate Professor in Psychology at the University of Chicago and a lead author on the paper, told UChicago News. And when you take into consideration that more than 90% of elementary school teachers in the U.S. are women, it can be worrisome for the girls in the classroom who are just trying to decipher decimals.

In order to avoid this potential aversion to math, parents should try to follow along with the school’s curriculum and help your child practice the basic concepts. Speak with your child’s teacher to see what the class is working on and if your child needs help in any areas. Make learning fun at home by playing math games at home (think Hi Ho! Cherry-O which involves counting). And above all, be sure not to reflect any of your own potential lack of confidence about math with your child. That way, your child will feel confident in the classroom — no matter what subject is being taught.

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