Student attitudes to maths and science: what we know from New Zealand’s TIMSS 2014/15 results for Year 5 and Year 9

Publication Details

This flyer briefly summarises student attitudes to maths and science and the relationship between those attitudes and student achievement. The types of attitudes covered include liking, confidence, and valuing maths and science. The attitudes of boys and girls and students in different ethnic groupings are also summarised.

Author(s): Robyn Caygill, Vafa Hanlar and Charlotte Harris-Miller, Comparative Education Research Unit, Ministry of Education

Date Published: November 2016

Introduction

What we know from New Zealand's TIMSS 2014/151 results for Year 5 and Year 9.

Overall

Liking maths and science

  • More than three-quarters of Year 5 and just over half of Year 9 students liked learning maths.
  • More students liked learning science than maths. Nine out of ten Year 5 students and more than three-quarters of Year 9 students liked learning science.
  • Fewer Year 9 students liked learning maths or science compared with many other TIMSS countries.

Confidence in maths and science

  • Fewer students expressed confidence in their own ability in maths and science, compared with how much they liked these subjects.
  • Two-thirds of Year 5 and just over half of Year 9 students were confident in maths.
  • Three-quarters of Year 5 and just over half of Year 9 students were confident in science.
  • New Zealand had fewer very confident students in both maths and science, compared with international averages.

Valuing maths and science

  • Only Year 9 students were asked about the value they placed on maths and science.
  • More than three-quarters valued science, and nine out of ten valued maths.
  • Compared with the international averages, fewer Year 9 students valued science, but slightly more valued maths.

Over time

  • More Year 9 students liked learning science and valued science, though their confidence in science hasn't changed since 2010/11.
  • Year 9 students' attitudes towards maths haven't changed much since 2010/11.
  • Year 5 students' attitudes to mathematics and science haven't changed much2 since 2010/11.

Achievement

  • Students had higher average3 maths or science achievement if they were positive about the subject.
  • The difference in average achievement between the most positive and least positive students was larger for confidence, than for liking, or valuing.

Boys and girls

  • There were more differences between boys and girls in attitudes to maths than attitudes to science.
  • More boys than girls were confident in maths at both year levels.
  • More Year 9 boys valued maths, but similar proportions of girls and boys valued science.
  • At both year levels, more girls than boys said they did not like maths. However, for science, this difference was only at the Year 9 level.
  • The difference in achievement of the most positive and least positive students, on average, was greater for boys than for girls.

Ethnic groupings

  • There were more differences between ethnic groupings in attitudes to maths than attitudes to science.
  • In general, students in the Asian and Pasifika ethnic groupings were more positive about mathematics, compared with students in the Māori and Pākehā/European groupings.
  • Students in the Asian grouping were more positive about science than students in the other ethnic groupings at the Year 9 level, but there were fewer differences among ethnic groupings at the Year 5 level.
  • Fewer Māori or Pasifika students were confident in their abilities in maths and science, compared with non-Māori and non-Pasifika.

References:

Caygill, R., Singh, S., & Hanlar, V. (2016). Mathematics Year 5: Trends over 20 years in TIMSS – Findings from TIMSS 2014/15. Wellington: Ministry of Education.

Caygill, R., Hanlar, V., & Singh, S. (2016). Mathematics Year 9: Trends over 20 years in TIMSS – Findings from TIMSS 2014/15. Wellington: Ministry of Education.

Caygill, R., Singh, S., & Hanlar, V. (2016). Science Year 5: Trends over 20 years in TIMSS – Findings from TIMSS 2014/15. Wellington: Ministry of Education.

Caygill, R., Hanlar, V., & Singh, S. (2016). Science Year 9: Trends over 20 years in TIMSS – Findings from TIMSS 2014/15. Wellington: Ministry of Education.

Footnotes

  1. TIMSS 2014/15 was conducted in New Zealand and other southern hemisphere countries in 2014, and in northern hemisphere countries in 2015.
  2. If the difference between the proportions is not statistically significant, this is reported as 'no change' or 'the same/similar'. Statistical significance means we are 95% certain that we would get the same results if the study was repeated with a different sample.
  3. In this case 'average' refers to the mean.

Contact Us

For more publication-related information, please email the: Information Officer Mailbox