Do girls just stink at math?

Many girls think they are simply no good at math, and that lack of confidence could be coming from a surprising source — their teachers.

A new study funded by the National Science Foundation shows that female teachers who have math anxiety could be inadvertently passing on their fears to their girl students. Since the girls see their female teachers as role models, they quickly pick up when a teacher thinks “boys are good at math and girls are good at reading,” according to the study.

I think this study is fascinating because many girls do automatically count themselves out of science and math fields because those are “boy subjects.” Who knows when this myth got started or if there is some natural gender ability, but it’s interesting to think that the teachers’ attitudes may be a factor.

Now I’m not saying teachers are doing this on purpose, but if a woman teacher is uncomfortable with the math and science subjects she is teaching, then I would bet she is more likely to shy away from tough questions about the material or to exhibit anxiety about the topic.

I’ve never been good at math, but not because I thought girls and math aren’t a good fit. I’m just not good at it and kind of gave up on it too early.

What do you think of this study — could female teachers be passing on their own math inadequacies to their female students? If so, is there a way to end that cycle? Do you think women and men are generally better at certain topics?

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