Female elementary school teachers' comfort with mathematics has an outsize effect on the girls they teach, according to new research.
Girls taught by a female teacher got a learning boost if that teacher had a strong math background, but had consistently lower math performance by the end of the school year if she didn't, according to a study presented at the American Economic Association's annual conference here.
By contrast, boys' math scores were not affected by having a female math teacher, regardless of the teacher's background in that subject, and there were no differences in math performance among male and female students of male teachers of different math backgrounds. The study adds to growing evidence that children's gender biases can significantly affect their own ability.
"Children's perceptions of gender start emerging between the ages of 7 and 12," said study coauthor I. Serkan Ozbeklik, an assistant economics professor at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, Calif. "Positive or negative, the primary school experiences may shape the academic course of students, leading to long-term consequences like choice of study, choice of major, and occupation