Science

Girls' fear of math debunked, study suggests

While girls tend to say they feel anxious about doing math, they are not actually much more anxious than their male counterparts during math classes or exams, according to new research by German and Canadian researchers.

Research finds their anxiety not much higher than boys'

Girls will say they are anxious about math in general surveys but when they are actually doing math, their anxiety is no higher than that of boys, say researchers from Germany and Canada. (Luke MacGregor/Reuters)

While girls tend to say they feel anxious about doing math, they are not actually much more anxious than their male counterparts during math classes or exams, according to new research by German and Canadian researchers.

Researchers from Humboldt University Berlin, the University of Munich and McGill University in Montreal say they've identified a key failing in previous studies that said girls are far more apprehensive about doing math than their male peers.

Previous studies asked students about generalized perceptions of mathematics anxiety rather than asking them directly about their anxiety while doing math.

The researchers conducted two studies that used 700 students from Grades 5 to 11.

In the first study, they used two different set of questions: the first set asked respondents to measure their anxiety about math tests while the second set asked them to assess their anxiety directly before and after a math test.

Those results were compared against the results from the second study in which students were required to answer questions, via their cellphones, during an actual math test.

Researchers discovered girls did not experience any higher anxiety while performing math compared to boys. Yet, in a general questionnaire about doing math, the girls would have answers that indicated they were more nervous than boys about the subject.

The findings fly in the face of many previous studies that stated that girls were more fearful about math than boys despite having achieved the same results in math.

The researchers, in their article for Psychological Science, say those studies supported stereotypes that may have been responsible for women opting out of careers related to math.

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