Print 14 comment(s) - last by TheEinstein.. on Jan 30 at 1:49 AM

Concern regarding teachers and how they transfer anxiety to some students

A new report published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science claims female teachers who show an anxiousness in math can share that attitude with female students.

The study was based on 17 first- and second-grade elementary school teachers, along with 52 boys and 65 girls.  At the beginning of the school year, researchers learned boys' and girls' math achievement didn't correlate depending on the attitude of their teacher.  

Boys weren't affected, but girls who began to believe boys are naturally better at math yielded lower grades.

"We are not sure whether it's something overt, whether it's non-verbal behavior or perhaps (teachers are) not spending much time on the subject," said Susan Levine, University of Chicago psychology and human development professor, co-author of the “Female Teachers' Math Anxiety Affects Girls' Math Achievement” study.  "It's not just a teacher's knowledge of the subject, but there' something about their feeling about the discipline."

This is a significant problem since there is a high demand for scientists, engineers and mathematicians, as these are in-demand jobs that help stimulate the economy.  However, men continue to dominate the engineering and IT jobs, and researchers believe it's detrimental to research to "dismiss 50%" of researchers because they are women.

The National Survey of Science and Mathematics Education indicates more than 90% of all elementary school teachers in the U.S. are women -- an inadequate level of mathematics study is required to receive a teaching certificate, which is something that may be addressed in the future.

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By Donovan on 1/27/2010 11:47:19 AM , Rating: 3
My impression from having been a physics/math tutor is that girls who lack confidence in the subject will often "talk themselves out of" the right answer. In many ways I think they do better studying on their own because the presence of an authority on the subject seems to intimidate them more and make them less likely to volunteer an answer. Like anyone they need a way to get their questions answered when they are stuck, but the usual "hand-holding" style of tutoring seems almost counterproductive at times.

I've noticed a similar situation where people who consider themselves bad with computers will call for advice even when they already know what to do. Being aware of the risks is one thing, but being cautious to the point of inaction is the surest way to never get any better. Assertiveness has a lot of value in technical often learn by doing stupid and reckless things, and, at least stereotypically, young boys are allowed to be more "stupid and reckless" than young girls.

One other point: I think guys (myself included) are too quick to "help" a girl by taking over completely, whereas we are more inclined to simply offer advice and step back when it is another guy who is struggling. Moreover, the male ego is such that the guy is likely to refuse to accept help from another guy even when he needs it, which is probably better for him in the long run.

"The Space Elevator will be built about 50 years after everyone stops laughing" -- Sir Arthur C. Clarke

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