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The NAEP Mathematics Achievement Levels by Grade

Grade 4
Grade 8
Grade 12

Specific definitions of the Basic, Proficient, and Advanced achievement levels for grades 4, 8, and 12 are presented in the tables that follow. Because of changes made to the NAEP mathematics framework in 2005, the achievement-level descriptions and cut points indicated below for grade 12 have been updated. To maintain trend, results for grades 4 and 8 are reported on a 0–500 scale while results for grade 12, beginning with the 2005 assessment, are reported on a 0–300 scale. View the grade 12 achievement-level descriptions and cut scores used prior to 2005.

The achievement levels are cumulative; therefore, students performing at the Proficient level also display the competencies associated with the Basic level, and students at the Advanced level also demonstrate the skills and knowledge associated with both the Basic and the Proficient levels. The cut score indicating the lower end of the score range for each level is noted in parentheses.

Grade 4

Basic
(214)

Fourth-grade students performing at the Basic level should show some evidence of understanding the mathematical concepts and procedures in the five NAEP content areas.

Fourth-graders performing at the Basic level should be able to estimate and use basic facts to perform simple computations with whole numbers, show some understanding of fractions and decimals, and solve some simple real-world problems in all NAEP content areas. Students at this level should be able to use—though not always accurately—four-function calculators, rulers, and geometric shapes. Their written responses will often be minimal and presented without supporting information.

Proficient
(249)

Fourth-grade students performing at the Proficient level should consistently apply integrated procedural knowledge and conceptual understanding to problem solving in the five NAEP content areas.

Fourth-graders performing at the Proficient level should be able to use whole numbers to estimate, compute, and determine whether results are reasonable. They should have a conceptual understanding of fractions and decimals; be able to solve real-world problems in all NAEP content areas; and use four-function calculators, rulers, and geometric shapes appropriately. Students performing at the Proficient level should employ problem-solving strategies such as identifying and using appropriate information. Their written solutions should be organized and presented both with supporting information and explanations of how they were achieved.

Advanced
(282)

Fourth-grade students performing at the Advanced level should apply integrated procedural knowledge and conceptual understanding to complex and nonroutine real-world problem solving in the five NAEP content areas.

Fourth-graders performing at the Advanced level should be able to solve complex and nonroutine real-world problems in all NAEP content areas. They should display mastery in the use of four-function calculators, rulers, and geometric shapes. The students are expected to draw logical conclusions and justify answers and solution processes by explaining why, as well as how, they were achieved. They should go beyond the obvious in their interpretations and be able to communicate their thoughts clearly and concisely.


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Grade 8

Basic
(262)

Eighth-grade students performing at the Basic level should exhibit evidence of conceptual and procedural understanding in the five NAEP content areas. This level of performance signifies an understanding of arithmetic operations—including estimation—on whole numbers, decimals, fractions, and percents.

Eighth-graders performing at the Basic level should complete problems correctly with the help of structural prompts such as diagrams, charts, and graphs. They should be able to solve problems in all NAEP content areas through the appropriate selection and use of strategies and technological tools—including calculators, computers, and geometric shapes. Students at this level also should be able to use fundamental algebraic and informal geometric concepts in problem solving.

As they approach the Proficient level, students at the Basic level should be able to determine which of the available data are necessary and sufficient for correct solutions and use them in problem solving. However, these eighth-graders show limited skill in communicating mathematically.

Proficient
(299)

Eighth-grade students performing at the Proficient level should apply mathematical concepts and procedures consistently to complex problems in the five NAEP content areas.

Eighth-graders performing at the Proficient level should be able to conjecture, defend their ideas, and give supporting examples. They should understand the connections between fractions, percents, decimals, and other mathematical topics such as algebra and functions. Students at this level are expected to have a thorough understanding of Basic level arithmetic operations—an understanding sufficient for problem solving in practical situations.

Quantity and spatial relationships in problem solving and reasoning should be familiar to them, and they should be able to convey underlying reasoning skills beyond the level of arithmetic. They should be able to compare and contrast mathematical ideas and generate their own examples. These students should make inferences from data and graphs, apply properties of informal geometry, and accurately use the tools of technology. Students at this level should understand the process of gathering and organizing data and be able to calculate, evaluate, and communicate results within the domain of statistics and probability.

Advanced
(333)

Eighth-grade students performing at the Advanced level should be able to reach beyond the recognition, identification, and application of mathematical rules in order to generalize and synthesize concepts and principles in the five NAEP content areas.

Eighth-graders performing at the Advanced level should be able to probe examples and counterexamples in order to shape generalizations from which they can develop models. Eighth-graders performing at the Advanced level should use number sense and geometric awareness to consider the reasonableness of an answer. They are expected to use abstract thinking to create unique problem-solving techniques and explain the reasoning processes underlying their conclusions.


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Grade 12

Basic
(141)

Twelfth-grade students performing at the Basic level should be able to solve mathematical problems that require the direct application of concepts and procedures in familiar situations.

Students at grade 12 should be able to perform computations with real numbers and estimate the results of numerical calculations. These students should also be able to estimate, calculate, and compare measures and identify and compare properties of two- and three-dimensional figures, and solve simple problems using two-dimensional coordinate geometry.

At this level, students should be able to identify the source of bias in a sample and make inferences from sample results; calculate, interpret, and use measures of central tendency; and compute simple probabilities. They should understand the use of variables, expressions, and equations to represent unknown quantities and relationships among unknown quantities. They should be able to solve problems involving linear relations using tables, graphics, or symbols, and solve linear equations involving one variable.

Proficient
(176)

Twelfth-grade students performing at the Proficient level should be able to select strategies to solve problems and integrate concepts and procedures.

These students should be able to interpret an argument, justify a mathematical process, and make comparisons dealing with a wide variety of mathematical tasks. They should also be able to perform calculations involving similar figures including right triangle trigonometry. They should understand and apply properties of geometric figures and relationships between figures in two and three dimensions.

Students at this level should select and use appropriate units of measure as they apply formulas to solve problems. Students performing at this level should be able to use measures of central tendency and variability of distributions to make decisions and predictions, calculate combinations and permutations to solve problems, and understand the use of the normal distribution to describe real-world situations. Students performing at the Proficient level should be able to identify, manipulate, graph, and apply linear, quadratic, exponential, and inverse functions (y = k/x); solve routine and non-routine problems involving functions expressed in algebraic, verbal, tabular, and graphical forms; and solve quadratic and rational equations in one variable and solve systems of linear equations.

Advanced
(216)

Twelfth-grade students performing at the Advanced level should demonstrate in-depth knowledge of the mathematical concepts and procedures represented in the framework.

Students should be able to integrate knowledge to solve complex problems and justify and explain their thinking. These students should be able to analyze, make and justify mathematical arguments, and communicate their ideas clearly. Advanced level students should be able to describe the intersections of geometric figures in two and three dimensions, and use vectors to represent velocity and direction. They should also be able to describe the impact of linear transformations and outliers on measures of central tendency and variability, analyze predictions based on multiple data sets, and apply probability and statistical reasoning in more complex problems. Students performing at the Advanced level should be able to solve or interpret systems of inequalities and formulate a model for a complex situation (e.g., exponential growth and decay) and make inferences or predictions using the mathematical model.


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Last updated 20 December 2006 (FW)

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National Center for Education Statistics - http://nces.ed.gov
U.S. Department of Education