TIMSS Results Show Continued Improvement in Math for U.S. Fourth- and Eighth-Graders
NCTM Calls for Focus on Gender Equity and High School Mathematics
Reston, Va., November 29, 2016 - The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) is encouraged by some of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) results released today, but acknowledges that there is work to be done. Fourth- and eighth-graders in the United States have shown long-term improvement on the TIMSS mathematics assessments.
Eighth-graders have improved in mathematics since 2011 and scores for fourth graders have held steady. Between 1995 and 2015, the average mathematics score for fourth-graders increased from 518 to 539 points. Eighth-graders' average mathematics score also increased between 1995 and 2015-from 492 to 518 points. The eighth-grade average mathematics score in 2015 was higher than in any prior administration of TIMSS (1995, 1999, 2003, 2007, or 2011).
“The TIMSS results for fourth- and eighth-graders are encouraging because we are seeing elementary and middle school students continue to show long-term growth,” said NCTM President Matt Larson. “This may reflect an increased focus on mathematics in the early grades and could be a longer-term effect of standards reform and the implementation of research-informed instructional practices in more schools.”
For the first time since 1995, the United States participated in the TIMSS Advanced 2015. The students who participated in the TIMSS Advanced assessment in advanced mathematics were in their final year of high school and had taken or were taking advanced mathematics courses covering topics in geometry, algebra, and calculus. The U.S. score in advanced mathematics in 2015 (485) was not measurably different from the U.S. score in 1995 (497). In addition, no education systems had higher average advanced mathematics scores in 2015 than in 1995, but three education systems (France, Italy, and Sweden) had lower average scores that were statistically different from the 2015 average score.
TIMSS Advanced results showed that males in twelfth grade scored 30 points higher than females in advanced mathematics-even though there was no measurable difference between males and females in eighth-grade mathematics.
“The TIMSS results again confirm the longstanding challenges regarding gender disparities in high school that we have seen on other assessments such as the ACT and SAT,” said Larson. “It is our responsibility-teachers, parents, policymakers, media, everyone-to present positive messages and role models that encourage girls and women to pursue their interests in mathematics education and other similar STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields. This is not solely a mathematics education concern.”
NCTM has been concerned about access and equity in mathematics education for some time and released a position statement on the issue. It recommends being responsive to students' backgrounds, experiences, cultural perspectives, traditions, and knowledge when designing and implementing a mathematics program and assessing its effectiveness. Additionally, NCTM has recommended a substantial rethinking of the high school math curriculum, advocating for more effective mathematics experience for each and every student. A recently formed NCTM task force will develop pathways for mathematics education that address access, equity, and empowerment issues, and will define curricular pathways to college, career, and citizenship readiness.
Highlights from TIMSS and TIMSS Advanced 2015 compares the performance of U.S. fourth- and eighth-grade students in mathematics and science to the performance of their peers in more than 50 countries and other education systems across six continents. The report includes results from TIMSS Advanced, which was administered to advanced twelfth-graders in nine other countries.
Media interested in arranging an interview with NCTM President Matt Larson should contact Stacey Finkel via email or call (703) 304-1377.
The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics is the public voice of mathematics education, providing vision, leadership, and professional development to support teachers in ensuring mathematics learning of the highest quality for each and every student. With 70,000 members and more than 200 Affiliates, NCTM is the world's largest organization dedicated to improving mathematics education in prekindergarten through grade 12. The Council's Principles and Standards for School Mathematics includes guidelines for excellence in mathematics education and issues a call for all students to engage in more challenging mathematics. Its Curriculum Focal Points for Prekindergarten through Grade 8 Mathematics identifies the most important mathematical topics for each grade level. Focus in High School Mathematics: Reasoning and Sense Making advocates practical changes to the high school mathematics curriculum to refocus learning on reasoning and sense making. Principles to Actions: Ensuring Mathematical Success for All describes the policies and actions required for a high-quality mathematics education for each and every student. NCTM is dedicated to ongoing dialogue and constructive discussion with all stakeholders about what is best for our nation's students.