Friday, January 29, 2010

Fear of Math passed from Teachers to (female) students

I have to admit that I am not one to acknowledge fear of math since that is far away from my experience. But there are plenty of websites that discuss math phobia and how to get over it.

example 1, example 2, example 3.

Now in an article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science researchers tested the hypothesis that fear of math is learned from elementary school teachers that have weak math backgrounds and that themselves have a fear of math. What they found is that fear of math seems to be passed onto the female students and not the male students. How this happens is not known.

The experiments were conducted by first measuring math anxiety within both the teachers and the students at the beginning of a school year. By the end of the school year, the more anxious a teacher was about mathematics, the more likely that girls (and not boys!) were to agree with the stereotype that boys are good at math and girls aren't.

One thing I did not know that 90 % of elementary school teachers are women (this is a statistic of U.S. schools, but I believe that it is probably similar for Canada), although I have spent some time in elementary schools here in Toronto and I should have been aware of that.

There are obvious followup questions such as "does fear of math get passed from male teacher to male students?" (which doesn't get addressed because the teachers this study were all female), and "does this only happen at the elementary school level?"

Here is some news coverage of this study:

A very short summary of the results from Chicago Public radio
Science News
Science Daily

Here is a 2007 story on fear of mathematics:
CBC - Fear over math marks reaches academic proportions

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A couple of announcements

Important dates

I got the following message to forward on to the program. If you didn't receive it and would like to be added to the mailing list please let me know:

Dear Graduate Program Directors & Graduate Program Assistants,

Please be advised that the 2010-2011 Important Dates for Graduate Students have now been published on FGS website,

About upcoming courses for summer session:

We are still waiting on final approval for the summer courses. We will be offering in the Summer 1 session (roughly May - June) "Problem Solving I," a 3.0 credit course with Yun Gao. Yun has in past years been responsible for the Putnam practice sessions for our undergraduate students.

In the Summer 2 session (roughly June - July) Bob Burns will be teaching a topics course on set theory using the book "Naive Set Theory."

Note that both "Problem solving I" and the topics course have yet to be approved so we have been slow to announce them.

About upcoming courses for FW 2010-11:

The mathematics department will be offering Math 5400 6.0: History of Mathematics for Teachers with Stan Kochman on Monday evenings 6-9pm and Math 5450 6.0: Geometry for Teachers with Walter Whiteley on Thursday evenings 6-9pm.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Winter 2010 Term Graduate Registration - Jan 15 deadline!

The Winter 2010 Term has begun, the Winter 2010 Term Registration Deadline is January 15th, 2010.

As a reminder, graduate students are required to maintain continuous registration and register in each term (Summer, Fall, & Winter) until the completion of their degree as either a full-time or part-time student. Students are expected to remain in the category of registration to which they are admitted, unless a change of status is approved by the Graduate Program Director and the Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies. Graduate students (continuing and new) are required to register for the Winter 2010 term by January 15th, 2010, students who register after the deadline will be charged a $200 late fee.
For more information on Registration go to:

Students who have not yet completed all the degree requirements, who are making academic progress and continuing with degree requirements must be registered for the Winter 2010 Term. Failure to do so by January 30th may result in the student being withdrawn from their program of study for failure to maintain continuous registration.

For information on Important Dates for Graduate Students go to: