Mathematics achievement: middle schooling
What We Have Found
There has been no significant change in New Zealand Year 9 students' mathematics performance over the period 1994 to 2010 although achievement appears to be trending downward.
Date Updated: October 2013
Mathematics scores for Year 9 students.
Why This Is ImportantA strong foundation in mathematics is particularly important as it allows children to better acquire new and advanced knowledge in mathematics, which contributes to successful participation in tertiary education and an increasingly knowledge-based society. For children, learning mathematics will be integral to a great many aspects of their lives. These aspects include time, money and budgeting, being fair to others, claiming rights, recognising and generalising from symbols and patterns, using technology, interpreting information, thinking systematically and creatively, making things, and solving problems.
This mathematics indicator draws on the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) assessments, providing information about the cumulative health of mathematics education after primary and intermediate school, and towards the end of the first year of secondary schooling.
How We Are Going
There has been no significant change in New Zealand Year 9 students' mathematics performance over the period 1994 to 2010 although achievement appears to be trending downward. The overall mean mathematics score for New Zealand Year 9 students in 2010 was 488, significantly lower than the TIMSS Scale Centre Point (500).
The spread of scores, from the 5th to the 95th percentiles, was wider in 2010 than in 2002. When compared with 2002, there were more low achievers in 2010.
Figure 1: Distribution of New Zealand Year 9 mathematics achievement in TIMSS from 1994 to 2010
New Zealand Year 9 students' mean performance in mathematics was significantly higher than 23 of the countries that also tested at Year 9 level but was significantly lower than 14 countries including Singapore, England, the United States, and Australia. New Zealand’s mean mathematics achievement was not significantly different from that of students in four other countries: Italy, Kazakhstan, Sweden, and Ukraine.
There are four points on the TIMSS mathematics scale which make up international mathematics benchmarks; the advanced benchmark (625), the high benchmark (550), the intermediate benchmark (475), and the low benchmark (400). The performance of students reaching each benchmark is described in relation to the types of questions they answered correctly. Five percent of students reached the advanced benchmark in 2010. Sixteen percent of New Zealand Year 9 students did not reach the lowest TIMSS benchmark. In terms of the benchmark definitions, these were students who did not demonstrate some knowledge of whole numbers and decimals, operations, and basic graphs.
Proportionately fewer students reached the intermediate and low benchmarks in 2010 (57% and 84%) compared with 1994 (64% and 89%). Note that the proportion shown for the low benchmark also includes students who performed at the advanced, high, and intermediate benchmarks. This is because, by definition, students who could do the more complex questions associated with, for example, the high benchmark, would also be able to complete the easier questions associated with the intermediate and low benchmarks. Although the proportion of students reaching the high and advanced benchmarks also appears to have reduced, this reduction was not statistically significant.
Figure 2: Percentage of New Zealand Year 9 students reaching the TIMSS mathematics benchmarks 1994 to 2010
Items in TIMSS at the Year 9 level were designed around four content areas of mathematics: number; algebra; geometry; and data and chance. The content area scores were calculated on the same scale as the overall mathematics score and therefore can be compared with the overall score. New Zealand Year 9 students performed relatively better on the data and chance domain and relatively worse on the algebra domain in 2010.
The average mathematics achievement of students from higher decile schools (9 and 10) was higher (521) than those from low decile schools (1 and 2 – 427 scale score points). There were high-achieving students in all decile groupings with eight percent of students from deciles 1 and 2 schools achieving at or above the high benchmark. However, there were more students in the high decile schools achieving at or above the high benchmark. There were also low-achieving students in all decile groupings with six percent of students from deciles 9 and 10 schools not reaching the low benchmark. However, there were more students in low decile schools achieving below the low benchmark.
Figure 3: Percentage of New Zealand Year 9 students in each decile grouping reaching the TIMSS mathematics benchmarks in 2010
The average mathematics achievement of Pākehā/European students has shown a significant decrease since 1994. The changes for Māori, Pasifika, Asian, and Other students between 1994 and 2010 are not statistically significant. Between 2002 and 2010 none of the differences in mathematics achievement were significant.
|1994||517 (4.5)||463 (6.4)||430 (6.8)||532 (10.9)||522 (16.8)||501 (4.7)|
|1998||508 (5.1)||454 (5.0)||429 (10.4)||534 (10.0)||508 (15.3)||491 (5.2)|
|2002 ||510 (5.9)||458 (4.8)||440 (13.7)||555 (9.8)||500 (13.3)||494 (5.3)|
|2010||500 (5.0)||446 (6.5)||433 (9.5) ||539 (9.6)||502 (8.7) ||488 (5.5)|
The mean mathematics achievement of Year 9 girls significantly decreased between 2002 and 2010. In contrast there was no change in the mean achievement of boys. As a result of the decrease for girls, there is now a significant difference between the mean achievement of boys and girls in favour of boys. In terms of the content areas in TIMSS 2010, girls scored significantly lower than boys, on average, across all content areas.
|1994||497 (5.3)||505 (6.1)||501 (4.7)|
|1998||495 (5.5)||487 (7.6)||491 (5.2)|
|2002 ||495 (4.8)||493 (7.0) ||494 (5.3)|
|2010 ||478 (5.5)||496 (6.2)||488 (5.5)|
- Alton-Lee, A. (2003). Quality Teaching for Diverse Students in Schooling: Best Evidence Synthesis. Wellington: Ministry of Education.
- Caygill, R., Kirkham, S. & Marshall, N. (2013). Year 9 students’ mathematics achievement in 2010/11: New Zealand results from the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). Wellington: Ministry of Education.
- Mullis, I.V.S., Martin, M.O., Foy, P. & Arora, A. (2012). TIMSS 2011 international results in mathematics. Chestnut Hill, MA: TIMSS & PIRLS International Study Center, Boston College.