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Is Female Math Anxiety a Myth?

Is Female Math Anxiety a Myth?A new study finds that while girls report more math anxiety on general survey measures, they are not actually more anxious during math classes and exams.

Existing research suggests that females are more anxious when it comes to mathematics than their male peers, despite similar levels of achievement.

But education researchers identified a critical limitation of previous studies examining math anxiety: They asked students to describe more generalized perceptions of mathematics anxiety, rather than assessing anxiety during actual math classes and exams.

To address this limitation, the researchers conducted two studies in which they collected data from approximately 700 students from grades 5 to 11.

In the first study, they compared students’ responses on two different measures: A questionnaire measuring anxiety about math tests, and their real-time self-reports of anxiety directly before and during a math exam.

In the second study, they compared questionnaire measures of math anxiety with repeated real-time assessments obtained during math classes via mobile devices.

Findings from the two studies replicated prior research and existing gender stereotypes, showing that girls reported more math anxiety than boys on generalized assessments, despite similar math achievement.

However, the data obtained during math exams and classes revealed that girls did not experience more anxiety than boys in real-life settings.

The data further suggest that lower self-reported competence in mathematics may underlie the discrepancy between the levels of anxiety reported by girls in the two settings.

The researchers note that general questionnaires may allow inaccurate beliefs about math ability to negatively bias girls’ assessments of their math abilities and exacerbate their math anxiety.

Primary researchers Thomas Götz and Madeleine Bieg believe the results suggest that stereotyped beliefs regarding math ability — rather than actual ability or anxiety differences — may be largely responsible for women not choosing to pursue careers in math-intensive domains.

The new research is forthcoming in the journal Psychological Science.

Source: Association for Psychological Sciences

Female student doing math photo by shutterstock.

Is Female Math Anxiety a Myth?

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Is Female Math Anxiety a Myth?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 17, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2013/08/28/is-female-math-anxiety-a-myth/58970.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.