Do girls really experience more anxiety over math than boys? According to research from Germany, they do not. Although existing research indicates that females do have more anxiety over math than their male peers, Thomas Götz and Madeleine Bieg from the University of Konstanz and Thurgau University of Teacher Education found that female students do not have any more math anxiety than male students in real-life situations.
The researchers conducted two studies to evaluate comparative math anxiety between male and female students. The first experiment required participants to complete a self-reported questionnaire that asked about anxiety during math tests. The students were also asked to report their anxiety directly before and after a math test. For the second experiment, the researchers compared answers from questionnaires about math anxiety to the real-time report of anxiety during a math class. The students sent their reports via mobile devices.
The results from the first experiment supported previous research that girls experience more math-related anxiety than boys. However, the second experiment—the one in a real-world setting—revealed that girls did not experience more anxiety than boys in a live math class situation. This discrepancy likely originates from the fact that girls may be negatively biased against their own math abilities and they this overstate their anxiety on self-reported questionnaires. The researchers suggest that stereotypical beliefs about math ability—not anxiety or lack of ability—may be preventing women from choosing to pursue careers in math-intensive fields.
This research is published in the journal Psychological Science.