It is a commonly held perspective that girls experience a higher level of anxiety with regards to math even when demonstrating levels of ability. A new series of studies, however, has shown that while girls may have higher anxiety as a generalized perception of mathematics, they do not exhibit those higher levels during actual math classes and exams.

Researchers identified a critical limitation within the data of previous studies – namely that students were asked to describe their general perceptions of feelings of anxiety towards math classes. The studies did not assess the level of anxiety present during the classes or exam periods. The research group developed a two-fold approach to address this limitation. First researchers compared the results of a questionnaire relating to the levels of anxiety about math tests to real-time self-reports directly before and during a math exam. Secondly they repeated this procedure with regards to a math class.

The results of the initial questionnaires were consistent with previous studies, specifically the girls reported a higher level of anxiety. The data acquired during the real-time assessments, however, indicated the girls experienced no greater levels of anxiety than did the boys.

This data suggests that the higher anxiety indicated in the generalized surveys may be influenced by a self-perceived lower competency level amongst the girls. Inaccurate beliefs regarding girls’ math abilities may negatively affect their assessments of their capabilities, thereby increasing math anxiety. The stereotypes with the beliefs they create may be the very source of the anxiety that girls often report towards mathematics, and may themselves be responsible for lower numbers of women pursuing math-intensive careers. 

So math anxiety may not be as much of a hurdle to overcome as it was once believed, but it does still exist. There are methods that can be learned to help girls cope with this and other forms of anxiety that arise at school and in life. Rebecca Ginder is knowledgeable in these techniques, as well as, other methods of overcoming anxiety. You can contact Rebecca Ginder today at (561) 450-5255.