TIMSS 2006/07

TIMSS-2006/07 is the fourth in a cycle of studies designed to measure trends in science and mathematics achievement at the middle primary and lower secondary levels. For this cycle of TIMSS, New Zealand tested only middle primary (Year 5) students. The students were tested towards the end of their school year; in Southern Hemisphere countries around November 2006, and in Northern Hemisphere countries around June 2007.

TIMSS Cycles, Information, Publications and International Data

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For information about each individual four year cycle of the study and publications based on the national results from TIMSS please refer to the 'Related Pages' inset box. For links to international publications, data and information on the IEA website please refer to the 'Where to find out More' inset box.

TIMSS 2006/07 Key Facts

Key Facts : TIMSS 2006/07

When:        November 2006 in New Zealand.

Who:          4,940 Year 5 students from 220 schools, their teachers (609), and principals participated. New Zealand did not assess year 9 students
                   in this cycle.

What:        Assessment in mathematics and science at the Year 5 level, with background information also collected.

How:         Conducted under the auspices of the IEA; managed internationally by Boston College; and managed within New Zealand by the 
                   Ministry of Education.

Where:      59 countries from around the world participated in TIMSS 2006/07, 37 of these countries at the Year 5 level.


This study is conducted on a four-year cycle. The first study was administered in participating countries in 1994/95, the second cycle in 1998/99, and the third cycle in 2002/03.

The fourth TIMSS assessment was  administered in New Zealand and other Southern Hemisphere countries in late 2006, and in Northern Hemisphere countries in the first quarter of 2007.

TIMSS-2006/07 is the fourth in a cycle of studies designed to measure trends in science and mathematics achievement at the middle primary and lower secondary levels. For this cycle of TIMSS, New Zealand tested only middle primary (Year 5) students.

Key Findings

Year 5: Mathematics Achievement

NB The word 'significant' is used to refer to statistical significance.

  • New Zealand Year 5 students, on average, achieved above the mean mathematics achievement for 12 of the 36 countries that participated in TIMSS 2006/07 at the middle primary level.
  • There has been a significant overall improvement since the first TIMSS cycle in 1994/95. However, New Zealand's mean mathematics achievement in 2006/07 was not significantly different from TIMSS 2002/03. The proportions of New Zealand students reaching the advanced, high, intermediate, and low benchmarks have not changed significantly since TIMSS 2002/03.
  • There was no difference between mean mathematics achievement of boys and girls in TIMSS 2006/07. Both boys and girls have shown a significant improvement since 1994. About the same proportions of Year 5 girls and boys were very positive about mathematics. However, proportionally more boys than girls in New Zealand expressed a high level of self-confidence in mathematics.
  • Both high and low performers were found in all ethnic groupings. Asian and Pākehā/European students demonstrated significantly higher mean mathematics scores than Māori and Pasifika students. Asian students performed significantly higher than Pākehā/European students. Māori students performed significantly higher than Pasifika students. Proportionally more Asian students reported positive attitudes to mathematics and fewer Pākehā/European reported positive attitudes to mathematics. Māori and Pasifika students expressed lower self-confidence in mathematics compared with students in the Pākehā/European, Asian, and Other ethnic groupings. 

Year 5: Science Achievement

  • New Zealand Year 5 mean science achievement was significantly higher than 13 of the 36 countries that participated at the middle primary level. A comparison with the other countries that have taken part in TIMSS across all three of the cycles shows that the mean science achievement of New Zealand Year 5 students has moved little in relation to these countries.
  • The mean science achievement of New Zealand Year 5 students was about the same in 2006 as in 1994. Although results from 1994, 1998, and 2002, showed a steady increase, this trend did not continue in 2006 when the results returned to the 1994 levels. The range of New Zealand Year 5 science achievement was narrower in 2006 than in 1994, with fewer students demonstrating very high or very low achievement.
  • There was no significant difference in mean science achievement between New Zealand Year 5 boys and girls. Boys and girls expressed similar attitudes to science, both in terms of enjoyment and motivation, and of self-confidence.
  • Both high and low performers were found in all ethnic groupings. Pākehā/European and Asian students had, on average, significantly higher mean science achievement than their Māori and Pasifika counterparts. There was no difference in the average performance of Pākehā/European and Asian students. Māori students had significantly higher mean science achievement than Pasifika students. More Pākehā/European students and students in the Other ethnic grouping reported high self-confidence in science compared with Asian, Māori, and Pasifika students. Proportionally more students in the Other ethnic grouping reported positive attitudes towards science compared with Pākehā/European, Asian, Māori, and Pasifika students.

TIMSS 2006/07 International Benchmarks

In order to describe more fully what achievement on the mathematics and science scales mean, the TIMSS international researchers have developed benchmarks. These benchmarks link student performance on the TIMSS mathematics and science scales to performance on the mathematics and science questions respectively and describe what students can typically do at set points on the pertinent achievement scale. The performance of students reaching each benchmark is described in relation to the types of questions they answered correctly.

Benchmarks for Mathematics Achievement

Advanced International Benchmark – 625

Students can apply their understanding and knowledge in a variety of relatively complex situations and explain their reasoning.
They can apply proportional reasoning in a variety of contexts. They demonstrate a developing understanding of fractions and decimals. They can select appropriate information to solve multi-step word problems. They can formulate or select a rule for a relationship. Students can apply geometric knowledge of a range of two- and three-dimensional shapes in a variety of situations. They can organise, interpret, and represent data to solve problems.

High International Benchmark – 550

Students can apply their knowledge and understanding to solve problems.
Students can solve multi-step word problems involving operations with whole numbers. They can use division in a variety of problem situations. They demonstrate understanding of place value and simple fractions. Students can extend patterns to find a later specified term and identify the relationship between ordered pairs. Students show some basic geometric knowledge. They can interpret and use data in tables and graphs to solve problems.

Intermediate International Benchmark – 475

Students can apply basic mathematical knowledge in straightforward situations.
Students at this level demonstrate an understanding of whole numbers. They can extend simple numeric and geometric patterns. They are familiar with a range of two-dimensional shapes. They can read and interpret different representations of the same data.

Low International Benchmark – 400

Students have some basic mathematical knowledge.
Students demonstrate an understanding of adding and subtracting with whole numbers. They demonstrate familiarity with triangles and informal coordinate systems. They can read information from simple bar graphs and tables.

Source: Exhibit 2.1 from Mullis, Martin, and Foy, 2008.


In TIMSS 2006/07, 5 percent of New Zealand Year 5 students reached the advanced benchmark for mathematics, 27 percent reached the high benchmark, 61 percent reached the intermediate benchmark, 85 percent reached the low benchmark. Note that the percentages at each benchmark represent the proportion of students who can at least achieve at that level; for example, the 85 percent of students reaching the low benchmark also includes students who were able to achieve at the intermediate, high, and advanced 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. There were 15 percent of students who did not reach the low benchmark for mathematics. In terms of the benchmark definitions, these were students who did not demonstrate some basic mathematical knowledge.

Benchmarks for Science Achievement

Advanced International Benchmark – 625

Students can apply knowledge and understanding of scientific processes and relationships in beginning scientific inquiry.
Students communicate their understanding of characteristics and life processes of organisms as well as of factors relating to human health. They demonstrate understanding of relationships among various physical properties of common materials and have some practical knowledge of electricity. Students demonstrate some understanding of the solar system and Earth's physical features and processes. They show a developing ability to interpret the results of investigations and draw conclusions as well as a beginning ability to evaluate and support an argument.

High International Benchmark – 550

Students can apply knowledge and understanding to explain everyday phenomena.
Students demonstrate some understanding of plant and animal structure, life processes, and the environment and some knowledge of properties of matter and physical phenomena. They show some knowledge of the solar system, and of Earth's structure, processes, and resources. Students demonstrate beginning scientific inquiry knowledge and skills, and provide brief descriptive responses combining knowledge of science concepts with information from everyday experience of physical and life processes.

Intermediate International Benchmark – 475

Students can apply basic knowledge and understanding to practical situations in the sciences.
Students recognise some basic information related to characteristics of living things and their interaction with the environment, and show some understanding of human biology and health. They also show some understanding of familiar physical phenomena. Students know some basic facts about the solar system and have a developing understanding of Earth's resources. They demonstrate some ability to interpret information in pictorial diagrams and apply factual knowledge to practical situations.

Low International Benchmark – 400

Students have some elementary knowledge of life science and physical science
Students can demonstrate knowledge of some simple facts related to human health and the behavioural and physical characteristics of animals. They recognise some properties of matter, and demonstrate a beginning understanding of forces. Students interpret labelled pictures and simple diagrams, complete simple tables, and provide short written responses to questions requiring factual information.

Source: Exhibit 2.1 from Martin, Mullis, and Foy, 2008.


In TIMSS 2006/07, 8 percent of New Zealand Year 5 students reached the advanced benchmark for science, 32 percent reached the high benchmark, 65 percent reached the intermediate benchmark, 87 percent reached the low benchmark. Note that the percentages at each benchmark represent the proportion of students who can at least achieve at that level; for example, the 87 percent of students reaching the low benchmark also includes students who were able to achieve at the intermediate, high, and advanced 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. There were 13 percent of students who did not reach the low benchmark for science. In terms of the benchmark definitions, these were students who did not demonstrate some elementary knowledge of life and physical science.

TIMSS 2006/07 Questionnaires

As well as the test itself, students were given a questionnaire containing questions about themselves, their opinions about mathematics and science, their computer use and time spent on homework. Principals and teachers were also given questionnaires in order to gain further information about the context in which the mathematics teaching and learning take place. Below are links to each of these questionnaires.

Questionnaires

Released Test Booklets and Companion Scoring Guides

Four released test booklets and their companion scoring guides are now available for each year level.

Released Test Booklets and Companion Scoring Guides

Related Pages

Where to find out more

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