When is the best time to help your child build confidence in his/her math abilities? The earlier the better, especially if you have a daughter. According to a new study appearing in this month’s Child Development journal, gender stereotypes regarding math are prevalent in elementary school children even as young as second grade. The study used an implicit test of word associations and an explicit test to measure whether children held the stereotype that math is for boys and whether the children applied this stereotype to themselves. The authors of the study found that children as young as second grade held the “math is for boys” stereotype and that elementary school boys in the study identified with math more strongly than did girls.
A recent article on math anxiety on Babble also cited a study showing that girls declined on their math tests after spending a year with math-anxious elementary school teachers whereas the teachers’ attitudes didn’t affect the boys’ performance.
These studies point to the challenge faced by parents who want their girls to succeed in challenging careers that require strong math ability: overcoming the entrenched and pervasive cultural stereotypes about girls and math in this country. Although the “Math class is tough” Barbie is no longer around, stereotypes remain (see video below). How do you help your girls feel confident at math?