Skip Navigation
small NCES header image
Highlights From the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) 2003
Introduction
Mathematics
Science
Summary
List of Tables
List of Figures
References
Acknowledgements
pdf file Appendices (PDF–493kb)
pdf file Full Report (PDF–664kb)
SUMMARY

Looking across the results in mathematics and science, the following points can be made.

  • In 2003, fourth-graders in three countries-Chinese Taipei, Japan, and Singapore-outperformed U.S. fourth-graders in both mathematics and science, while students in 13 countries turned in lower average mathematics and science scores than U.S. students (tables 2 and 8). U.S. fourth-grade students outperformed their peers in five OECD-member countries (Australia, Italy, New Zealand, Norway and Scotland) of which three are English-speaking countries (Australia, New Zealand and Scotland).
  • No measurable changes were detected in the average mathematics and science scores of U.S. fourth-graders between 1995 and 2003 (tables 4 and 10). Moreover, the available data suggest that the performance of U.S. fourth-graders in both mathematics and science was lower in 2003 than in 1995 relative to the 14 other countries that also participated in both studies (tables 6 and 12).
  • On the other hand, fourth-grade students in six countries showed improvement in both average mathematics and science scores between 1995 and 2003: Cyprus, England, Hong Kong SAR, Latvia-LSS, New Zealand and Slovenia. At the same time, fourth-graders in Norway showed measurable declines in average mathematics and science achievement over the same time period (tables 4 and 10).
  • U.S. fourth-grade girls showed no measurable change in their average performance in mathematics and science between 1995 and 2003 (figures 1 and 3). U.S. fourth-grade boys also showed no measurable change in their average mathematics performance, but a measurable decline in science performance over the same time period.
  • U.S. Black fourth-graders improved in both mathematics and science between 1995 and 2003 (figures 1 and 3). Hispanic fourth-graders showed no measurable changes in either subject, while White fourth-graders showed no measurable change in mathematics, but declined in science.
  • As a result of changes in the performance of Black and White fourth-graders, the gap in achievement between White and Black fourth-grade students in the United States narrowed between 1995 and 2003 in both mathematics and science (figures 1 and 3). In addition, the gap in achievement between Black and Hispanic fourth-graders also narrowed in science over the same time period.
  • In 2003, U.S. fourth-graders in U.S. public schools with the highest poverty levels (75 percent or more of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch) had lower average mathematics and science scores compared to their counterparts in public schools with lower poverty levels (figures 1 and 3).
  • Eighth-graders in the five Asian countries that outperformed U.S. eighth-graders in mathematics in 2003-Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong SAR, Japan, Korea, and Singapore-also outperformed U.S. eighth-graders in science in 2003, with eighth-graders in Estonia and Hungary performing better than U.S. students in mathematics and science as well (tables 3 and 9). Students in three of these Asian countries-Chinese Taipei, Japan, and Singapore-outperformed both U.S. fourth- and eighth-graders in mathematics and science on average (tables 2, 8, 3, and 9).
  • U.S. eighth-graders improved their average mathematics and science performances in 2003 compared to 1995 (tables 5 and 11). The growth in achievement occurred primarily between 1995 and 1999 in mathematics, and between 1999 and 2003 in science. Moreover, the available data suggest that the performance of U.S. eighth-graders in both mathematics and science was higher in 2003 than it was in 1995 relative to the 21 other countries that participated in the studies (tables 7 and 13).
  • In addition to students in the United States, eighth-graders in seven other countries showed significant increases in both mathematics and science in 2003 compared to either 1999 or 1995: Hong Kong SAR, Israel, Korea, Latvia-LSS, Lithuania, Morocco, and the Philippines (tables 5 and 11). On the other hand, eighth-graders in eight countries declined in their mathematics and science performance over this same time period.
  • U.S. eighth-grade boys and girls, and U.S. eighth-grade Blacks and Hispanics improved their mathematics and science performances from 1995 (figures 2 and 4). As a result, the gap in achievement between White and Black eighth-graders narrowed in both mathematics and science over this time period.
  • In 2003, U.S. eighth-graders in U.S. public schools with the highest poverty levels (75 percent or more of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch) had lower average mathematics and science scores compared to their counterparts in public schools with lower poverty levels (figures 2 and 4).

     ^Back to Top^

Would you like to help us improve our products and website by taking a short survey?

YES, I would like to take the survey

or

No Thanks

The survey consists of a few short questions and takes less than one minute to complete.
National Center for Education Statistics - http://nces.ed.gov
U.S. Department of Education