Math anxiety, not gender bias, explains why girls are less likely to pursue education and careers in STEM fields, according to a new study of student performance by 15-year-olds in more than 60 countries.
In less-developed countries, boys and girls fear math, the study found. The anxiety gap appears in developed countries with more gender equality, writes Rebecca Klein in the Huffington Post
Many believe that “as society became more gender equal, with more women in politics … and [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] fields and so forth, this would provide more role models, and therefore the gender differences in math anxiety and math performance would disappear,” David Geary, a University of Missouri psychology professor told Klein. “We found the opposite.”
The study found no link between the proportion of women working in STEM fields and teenage girls’ math anxiety.
Even when researchers control for performance, girls “still have more math anxiety than they should,” he said.