Do girls really experience more math anxiety?

August 27, 2013

Girls report more math anxiety on general survey measures but are not actually more anxious during math classes and exams, according to new research forthcoming in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Existing research suggests that females are more anxious when it comes to mathematics than their male peers, despite similar levels of achievement. But Thomas Götz and Madeleine Bieg of the University of Konstanz and the Thurgau University of Teacher Education and colleagues 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 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 , showing that girls reported more math anxiety than boys on generalized assessments, despite similar .

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 .

According to Götz, Bieg, and colleagues, these results suggest that stereotyped beliefs regarding , rather than actual ability or anxiety differences, may be largely responsible for women not choosing to pursue careers in math-intensive domains.

Explore further: When people worry about math, the brain feels the pain

Related Stories

When people worry about math, the brain feels the pain

October 31, 2012
Mathematics anxiety can prompt a response in the brain similar to when a person experiences physical pain, according to new research at the University of Chicago.

Math anxiety causes trouble for students as early as first grade

September 12, 2012
Many high-achieving students experience math anxiety at a young age—a problem that can follow them throughout their lives, new research at the University of Chicago shows.

Recommended for you

Suicidal thoughts rapidly reduced with ketamine, finds study

December 14, 2017
Ketamine was significantly more effective than a commonly used sedative in reducing suicidal thoughts in depressed patients, according to researchers at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC). They also found that ketamine's ...

Do bullies have more sex?

December 14, 2017
Adolescents who are willing to exploit others for personal gain are more likely to bully and have sex than those who score higher on a measure of honesty and humility. This is according to a study in Springer's journal Evolutionary ...

Children's screen-time guidelines too restrictive, according to new research

December 14, 2017
Digital screen use is a staple of contemporary life for adults and children, whether they are browsing on laptops and smartphones, or watching TV. Paediatricians and scientists have long expressed concerns about the impact ...

Eating together as a family helps children feel better, physically and mentally

December 14, 2017
Children who routinely eat their meals together with their family are more likely to experience long-term physical and mental health benefits, a new Canadian study shows.

The iceberg model of self-harm

December 14, 2017
Researchers have created a model of self-harm that shows high levels of the problem in the community, especially in young girls, and the need for school-based prevention measures.

Encouraging risk-taking in children may reduce the prevalence of childhood anxiety

December 13, 2017
A new international study suggests that parents who employ challenging parent behavioural (CPB) methods – active physical and verbal behaviours that encourage children to push their limits – are likely protecting their ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.