Mathematics anxiety results in a child trembling with fear when confronted by numbers and it can affect both boys and girls. However, for ages mathematics has been seen as a masculine trait and girls are considered to be poor at math. Now, researchers have demonstrated that having math anxiety does hinder math performance in girls more than it does in boys.

In the present study, researchers from University of Cambridge investigated math performance of 433 British boys and girls. They found that students who are afraid of doing math problems have poorer scores in math and that girls had higher levels of anxiety towards math than boys. There was however no gender difference in math ability. Researchers said that if girls weren't suffering from math anxiety they'd do better at the tests.

Previous research has shown that math performance depends on math anxiety among children. Girls are more affected by math anxiety. Previous research had suggested a girls' poor performance in math is due to elementary school female teachers who suffer from math anxiety.

In a related study, researchers hooked up children with math anxiety to MRI scans and found that children with math anxiety had higher levels of activity in brain regions that are associated with negative emotions. These children also had reduced activity in regions of the brain that deal with mathematical reasoning.

Another study suggests that educational intervention aimed at reducing negative emotions towards math anxiety is better than more training in mathematics.

"Mathematics anxiety warrants attention in the classroom because it could have negative consequences for later mathematics education, particularly as it is thought to develop during the primary school years," Dénes Szűcs, lead author of the study said in a statement.

According to researchers, math anxiety could account for the reason why only 7 percent of pupils in the UK study mathematics at the "A" level and why the number of students taking math at a university level is in decline.

The study was published in Behavioral and Brain Functions.