Scientists study female math anxiety

May 29, 2007 at 12:13 PM
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CHICAGO, May 29 (UPI) -- A U.S. study shows the stereotype that boys are better at mathematics than girls might undermine girls' math performance.

University of Chicago researchers also showed, for the first time, the threat to mathematics performance caused by stereotyping can also hinder success in other academic areas because mental abilities do not immediately rebound after being compromised by mathematics anxiety.

"This may mean that if a girl takes a verbal portion of a standardized test after taking the mathematics portion, she may not do as well on the verbal portion as she might do if she had not been recently struggling with math-related worries and anxiety," said Sian Beilock, an assistant professor in psychology and lead investigator in the study.

"Likewise, our work suggests that if a girl has a mathematics class first thing in the morning and experiences math-related worries in this class, these worries may carry implications for her performance in the class she attends next," Beilock added.

Beilock; Robert Rydell, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California-Santa Barbara; and Professor Allen McConnell of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, report their study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.

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