A study led by researchers from the University of Cambridge, shows that math anxiety is seen more in girls than boys. While mathematics is often considered a hard subject, not all difficulties associated with the subject result from cognitive difficulties. According to the study, the anxiety that girls feel when confronted with a math problem stems from the gendered stereotypes about the ability to crack math.

While primary-aged children noted that they were confused by different teaching methods, secondary students commented on poor interpersonal relations with their math teachers. According to the latter, the transition from primary to secondary causes “math anxiety”, as the work seems harder and they find difficulty in coping.

“Teachers, parents, brothers and sisters and classmates can all play a role in shaping a child’s maths anxiety,” Ros McLellan from the varsity’s Faculty of Education, said in a statement.

“Parents and teachers should also be mindful of how they may unwittingly contribute to a child’s maths anxiety. Tackling their own anxieties and belief systems in maths might be the first step to helping their children or students,” McLellan added.

In a sample of 1000 Italian students, the team found that girls in primary and secondary school faced higher levels of both math and general anxiety. Students also shared that bad grads, test results, or negative comparisons to peers or siblings as reasons for feeling anxious.

The researchers said that teachers and parents need to be aware that their own math anxiety might influence their students’ or child’s math anxiety.