Stereotypes about mathematics and women: sex differences in mathematics anxiety of Communication students


Citizens are required to understand an increasingly datafied reality to perform sensible decision making and be active participants in society. However, our ability to grasp that complexity, especially when it involves data in the form of numbers, is affected by limiting factors such as mathematics anxiety. In the case of women, how they face the reading of content based on data or numbers affects their daily lives, including career choice. Playing a central mediating role in transmitting increasingly datafied information, journalism is an interesting research object. This study examines the notion that journalism students –especially female students– are «bad with numbers» through the measurement of math anxiety of 185 Communication students, looking for correlations with their math competency. Results show that students manifest a low competency in math, paired with high math anxiety, which is the factor that best serves as an explanation for competency results. Specifically, only students with medium-low values of math anxiety pass the competency test. However, no sex differences were found in competency, while small differences in math anxiety (with women displaying slightly higher anxiety values than men) were identified. Even if the minor sex differences in math anxiety found in this study are not statistically significant, investigating whether this is also the case in other fields or in a random sample remains relevant, as these results defy previous misunderstandings of women’s capacities that are significant to understand the interactions of women with data.

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