Hyde was lead author of a 2008 study showing women gaining on men in math skills but still lagging significantly in areas such as physics and engineering.

Girls who grow up believing that females lack math skills wind up avoiding harder math classes, Hyde noted.

“It keeps girls and women out of a lot of careers, particularly high-prestige, lucrative careers in science and technology,” she said.

Beilock did note that not all of the girls in classrooms with math-anxious teachers fell prey to the stereotype, but “teachers are one source,” she said.

Teacher math anxiety was measured on a 25-question test about situations that made them anxious, such as reading a cash register receipt or studying for a math test. A separate test checked the math skills of the teachers, who worked in a large Midwestern urban school district.

Student math skills were tested in the first three months of the school year and again in the last two months of the year.

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation.


Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

National Science Foundation