High math anxiety was a stronger predictor of poor test performance for girls than for boys, researchers from Cambridge and Oxford Universities said -- and could keep girls from persisting with their math education and pursuing careers that require quantitative skills.
Despite higher levels of anxiety in girls, the researchers said they found no difference in girls' actual performance in math as compared to boys', LiveScience.com reported Monday.
"These results might suggest that girls may have had the potential to perform better than boys in mathematics, however, their performance may have been attenuated by higher levels of (mathematics anxiety)," the researchers wrote in the journal Behavioral and Brain Functions.
Researchers analyzed at tests and questionnaires from 4,333 English school children in their early to mid teens.
A number of studies have suggested girls suffer from higher mathematics anxiety than boys but it is not clear why, they said. Some argue it grows out of sex roles that assign math to the male domain, while others say girls may be more open about feelings of anxiety or may be more critical than boys of their math performance.