December 11, 2008
The numbers are in from the 2007 edition of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study. U.S. fourth and eighth graders both exceeded the international average in math achievement and improved their standing among their international peers.
TIMSS 2007 is the fourth in a cycle of assessments of learning in mathematics and science for students around the world. Carried out every four years at the fourth and eighth grades, TIMSS provides data about trends in mathematics and science achievement over time.
The 2007 TIMSS evaluations tested the skills of fourth graders in 36 countries and eighth graders from 48 countries. In the latest set of tests, the average mathematics scores for both fourth- and eighth-grade U.S. students were significantly higher than in the first international test in 1995. U.S. fourth-graders scored 529, besting the international average by 29 points. The fourth-graders' math score was 11 points higher than the 2003 TIMMS, representing a statistically significant gain. The 2007 average score for eighth-grade students of 508 was 16 points higher than the 1995 average of 492.
“The strides our students are making in mathematics are the result of the steps that local, state, and federal entities are taking to prepare our students to meet the challenges of a global economy,” said Hank Kepner, President of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. “The steady improvement of our students since 1995 affirms that we are moving in the right direction in teaching our students the mathematics they need for the 21st century.”
George Miller (D-Calif.), chair of the House Education Committee, welcomed the gains. Nonetheless, he told USA Today, "our students are still behind their international peers in both math and science--fields that are key to our nation's economic vitality and competitiveness.”
Tom Loveless, a member of the National Mathematics Panel, also noted progress. But, he added, "we're several decades from being first in the world." Loveless urged a greater emphasis on algebra and higher-order problem solving.
Average scores for fourth-grade students, ranked by nation: Hong Kong—607; Singapore—599; Chinese Taipei—576; Japan—568; Kazakhstan—549; Russian Federation—544; England—541; Latvia—537; Netherlands—535; Lithuania—530; United States—529; Germany—525; Denmark—523; Australia—516; Hungary—510; Italy—507; Austria—505; Sweden—503; Slovenia—502; Armenia—500; Slovak Republic—496; Scotland—494; New Zealand—492; Czech Republic—486; Norway—473; Ukraine—469; Georgia—438; Iran—402; Algeria—378; Colombia—355; Morocco—341; El Salvador—330; Tunisia—327; Kuwait—316; Qatar—296; Yemen—224.
Average scores for eighth-grade students, ranked by nation: Chinese Taipei—598; Republic of Korea—597; Singapore—593; Hong Kong—572; Japan—570; Hungary—517; England—513; Russian Federation—512; United States—508; Lithuania—506; Czech Republic—504; Slovenia—501; Armenia—499; Australia—496; Sweden—491; Malta-488; Scotland—487; Serbia—486; Italy—480; Malaysia—474; Norway—469; Cyprus—465; Bulgaria—464; Israel—463; Ukraine—462; Romania—461; Bosnia and Herzegovina—456; Lebanon—449; Thailand—441; Turkey—432; Jordan—427; Tunisia—420; Georgia—410; Iran—403; Bahrain—398; Indonesia—397; Syria—395; Egypt—391; Algeria—387; Colombia—380; Oman—372; Palestinian National Authority—367; Botswana—364; Kuwait—354; El Salvador—340; Saudi Arabia—329; Ghana—309; Qatar—307.
Source: USA Today, Dec. 9, 2008; TIMSS 2007 International Study Center, Dec. 9, 2008; National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, Dec. 9, 2008.