Girls More Likely to Freak Out When Faced with a Math Problem, Says Study That Doesn't Help the Problem

Illustration for article titled Girls More Likely to Freak Out When Faced with a Math Problem, Says Study That Doesn't Help the Problem

If the phrase "word problem" still provokes vivid night terrors of you sitting in a dystopian future classroom as uniformed classmates jeer at you for not being able to figure out how long it will take some imaginary fucking train to get to some imaginary fucking destination quickly enough for your totalitarian eighth grade math teacher, it should come as no surprise that you suffer from a condition called math anxiety, which you no doubt inherited from those descendants of yours that got totally screwed during the gold rush of ‘49. According to a new study in the journal Behavioral and Brain Functions, however, you can't simply blame this mathematical deficiency on your swindled mining progenitors — it might have something to do with gender.


Researchers at the University of Cambridge decided to use the substantial resources at their disposal to figure out if math anxiety, already a noted phenomenon in hapless schoolchildren, manifested itself in different ways among boys and girls. Their study tracked 433 British secondary school students as they fretted to premature grayness over equations and word problems. Notably, the team controlled for test anxiety, a related but not normally controlled-for construct.

I know, I know — at this point, you're probably on tenterhooks. What ever did those sharp Cambridge nerds find out about math anxiety? Well, they found that kids with high math anxiety exhibit low math performance, and that girls in the study exhibited higher math anxiety than boys. Draw your own conclusions, but a summary of the study drew its own conclusions and those were that, since there were no significant gender differences in math performance, girls could do just as well as boys in math class if only they weren't so anxious about word problems and such. Which is to say, girls would do just as well as boys at math if researchers stopped churning out studies about how anxious girls are about their math performance.

Girls' mathematics performance more likely to suffer than boys' as a result of mathematics anxiety [EurekAlert]

Image via Gorilla/Shutterstock.



Another spectacular piece of scientific journalism from Jezebel. I always love seeing research being torn apart – those darned scientists and the useless grant money that goes towards funding them. Why can’t they have REAL jobs? Never mind that, as a child, knowing about a study like this might have calmed me down better than a doting parent saying “you just get nervous!” - I prefer ignoring that, and just reading pointless snark.

EDIT: Also, for those that like reading the actual paper,