TIMSS 2006/07: Trends in Year 5 mathematics achievement 1994 to 2006

Publication Details

This report describes the mathematics achievement of Year 5 students in TIMSS 2006/07. Trends in New Zealand’s achievement over the 12 years from 1994 to 2006 are examined, along with comparisons with other countries. Analyses of achievement by sub-groupings (such as gender and ethnicity) and background information are also presented. It was originally published in December 2008 and revised in September 2009 due to the mislabelling of the content domains knowing and applying. The current version rectifies this error.

Author(s): Robyn Caygill & Sarah Kirkham [Ministry of Education]

Date Published: December 2008

Mathematics achievement by socio-economic status and home educational resources

TIMSS includes a number of questions about resources available in the home. These resources in the home can be used as a proxy measure for socio-economic status. In addition, in New Zealand the decile indicator of schools is available to give a measure of the socio-economic status of the area in which a student lives. This section will present analyses of these proxy measures of socio-economic status and their association with mathematics achievement.

Number of books in the home

Just over one third of New Zealand Year 5 students (38%) reported having more than 100 books in their homes in 2006. This was a large reduction in proportion since 1994 when 62 percent reported having more than 100 books in their homes, but is consistent with 2002 and with that previously found by Caygill and Chamberlain (2005) in the 2001 Trends in Reading Literacy Study (38% also). This trend of fewer books in the home is also consistent with other countries that have been in the study since 1994. Thirty-four percent of students reported having between 25 and 100 books in their homes while 28 percent of students reported having 25 or fewer books in their homes.

As shown in Figure 13, there was a positive relationship between the number of books in the home and achievement in 2006, with those students with a greater number of books in the home having higher achievement, on average, in mathematics. This is consistent with findings from previous cycles of TIMSS as well as other studies that have shown a strong link between books in the home and achievement (see for example Chamberlain 2008).

Figure 13: Proportions and mean mathematics achievement of Year 5 students by number of books in the homeImage of Figure 13: Proportions and mean mathematics achievement of Year 5 students by number of books in the home.
Notes:

  1. The bars on the graph represent the proportions of Year 5 students while the points represent mean scores. Lines extending from the points represent the 95% confidence interval, i.e. the range within which we are 95 percent confident that the true population value lies.
  2. Standard errors are presented in parentheses.

Number of items in the home including educational resources

Students were asked whether their home contained items from a list of nine: calculator, computer (do not include PlayStation®, GameCube®, XBox®, or other TV/video game computers), study desk/table for your use, dictionary, internet connection, your own room, your own mobile phone, musical instruments (e.g., piano, violin, guitar), and dishwasher. The intention of this question was two-fold. The first four items were included to give an indication of the availability of resources at home that could be used to help educationally. The list in its entirety was included to give a proxy measure of socio-economic status as the students were too young to give reliable information on parental employment or household income.

Items in the home

As Table 16 shows, the educational items were the most common items found in the homes of New Zealand Year 5 students. Approximately nine out of every ten students had a calculator in their home and a similar proportion reported having a computer in their home. Just over three-quarters of students reported an internet connection in their home and similarly, three-quarters reported that they had their own room. It was least common for students to have their own mobile phone with only 36 percent of students reporting this.

Table 16: Proportion of students reporting item is in the home
ItemProportion of Year 5 students (%)
Calculator
92
Computer
91
Dictionary
89
Study desk/table for your own use
80
Internet connection
77
Your own room
77
Dishwasher
69
Musical instruments
62
Your own mobile phone
36


Eleven percent of students reported that all nine items could be found in their homes, one-quarter reported eight items, and a further quarter reported seven items. Just under 40 percent of students reported six or fewer of the items could be found in their homes, with less than one percent reporting one or none of the listed items. As shown in Figure 14, mathematics achievement generally increased as the number of items in the home increased.

Figure 14: Proportions and mean mathematics achievement of Year 5 students by number of items found in the home
Image of Figure 14: Proportions and mean mathematics achievement of Year 5 students by number of items found in the home.
Note:

  1. The bars on the graph represent the proportions of Year 5 students while the points represent mean scores. Lines extending from the points represent the 95% confidence interval, i.e. the range within which we are 95 percent confident that the true population value lies.
  2. Standard errors are presented in parentheses.

Home educational resources

As mentioned earlier, the calculator, computer (do not include PlayStation®, GameCube®, XBox®, or other TV/video game computers), and study desk/table for your use were included in the list of items to ascertain the availability of educational resources at home. While students may not necessarily use these items for educational purposes, their presence could indicate the relative importance of education to the family, although this also may be reflective of the wealth of the home.

Nearly two-thirds of students (64%) reported that they had all four educational resources in their homes, while nearly one-quarter of students (24%) reported three of the four items in their homes. As shown in Figure 15, students with more educational resources in the home had higher mean mathematics achievement than those with fewer items.

Figure 15: Proportions and mean mathematics achievement of Year 5 students by number of educational resources found in the home
Image of Figure 15: Proportions and mean mathematics achievement of Year 5 students by number of educational resources found in the home.

Notes:
  1. The bars on the graph represent the proportions of Year 5 students while the points represent mean scores. Lines extending from the points represent the 95% confidence interval, i.e. the range within which we are 95 percent confident that the true population value lies.
  2. The achievement value for the students with 0 educational resources should be treated with caution as indicated by the high standard error around the mean.
  3. Standard errors are presented in parentheses.

Number of schools attended by student

Another question included in the questionnaire that may be indicative of socio-economic status was the number of schools attended by a student. Many students in New Zealand change schools for a variety of reasons, but high mobility may be symptomatic of families moving regularly to find work, or students moving about among family members, or in care.

Just over half of all students reported that they had only attended one school, their current school, while one quarter of students had attended two schools. One in every 10 students reported they had attended four or more schools. As shown in Figure 16, students with high mobility had lower achievement than those with low mobility.


Figure 16: Proportions and mean mathematics achievement of Year 5 students by number of schools student has attended
Image of Figure 16: Proportions and mean mathematics achievement of Year 5 students by number of schools student has attended.
Notes:

  1. The bars on the graph represent the proportions of Year 5 students while the points represent mean scores. Lines extending from the points represent the 95% confidence interval, i.e. the range within which we are 95 percent confident that the true population value lies.
  2. Standard errors are presented in parentheses.

Household size

Another indicator of socio-economic status is the size of the household. While cultural or religious beliefs may determine household size, household crowding may also be indicative of poorer economic background. However, homes with one child living with one parent may also struggle financially. Mathematics achievement was examined with respect to number of people in the household. The highest achievement was found amongst students in households of size 3, 4, or 5 (501, 510, and 506 scale score points respectively) with the lowest achievement amongst students in households of 2, 7 or 8 (465, 466 and 437 respectively).

Decile

The Ministry of Education allocates resources such as Targeted Funding for Educational Achievement (TFEA) based on school decile indicator. A school’s decile indicates the extent to which a school draws its students from low socio-economic communities. In general, decile 1 schools are the schools with the highest proportion of students from socio-economically disadvantaged communities, while decile 10 schools are the ten percent of schools with the lowest proportion of students from these communities.

Analyses of mathematics achievement for students in schools in each decile band demonstrate that mathematics achievement is higher in higher decile schools and lower in lower decile schools as shown in Figure 17. However, the difference in achievement was not always significant when adjacent groups were examined. The largest difference between the mean mathematics score of adjacent groups occurs between students in deciles 1 and 2 (35 scale score points). It should be noted that this analysis does not demonstrate a causal link between being in a higher decile school and having higher achievement. Rather it is indicative of a trend demonstrating that students with lower levels of disadvantage in terms of family background and socio-economic background and living in wealthier communities have higher achievement.

Figure 17: Proportions and mean mathematics achievement of Year 5 students by decile indicator of school

Image of Figure 17: Proportions and mean mathematics achievement of Year 5 students by decile indicator of school.
 

Decile results were not reported in earlier TIMSS studies at this level. However, they have been analysed for this report by the broad groupings 1 to 3, 4 to 7, and 8 to 10 in order to ascertain whether the pattern of higher achievement, on average, among students in higher decile schools, was also evident in earlier cycles. As shown in Figure 18, students in higher decile schools have consistently demonstrated higher achievement than those in lower decile schools.
 

Figure 18: Trends in mathematics achievement by decile indicator for 1994 to 2006

Image of Figure 18: Trends in mathematics achievement by decile indicator for 1994 to 2006.

Summary of mathematics achievement by socio-economic status and home educational resources

As the results in this section demonstrate, students from higher socio-economic backgrounds tend to have higher mean mathematics achievement than those from lower backgrounds as evidenced by the proxy measures books in the home, items in the home, household size and mobility. In addition, the decile of the school they attend, indicative of the level of economic disadvantage in the community in which they live, was positively related to mathematics achievement. That is students in higher decile schools had higher mathematics achievement, on average, than those in lower deciles.