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Synthesis Report




TABLE OF CONTENTS


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY


PREFACE

  • The Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) is the largest, most comprehensive, and most rigorous international comparison of education ever undertaken.

  • TIMSS' rich information allows us not only to compare achievement, but also to understand how life in U.S. schools differs from that in other nations.

  • This report on eighth-grade students is the first of a series of reports that will present findings on student achievement at the fourth grade, at the end of high school, as well as on various other topics.


CHAPTER 1: ACHIEVEMENT

  • U.S. eighth graders score below average in mathematics achievement and above average in science achievement, compared to the 41 nations in the TIMSS assessment.

  • In mathematics, our eighth-grade students' international standing is stronger in Algebra and Fractions than in Geometry and Measurement.

  • In science, our eighth graders' international standing is stronger in Earth Science, Life Science, and Environmental Issues than in Chemistry and Physics.

  • The U.S. is one of 11 TIMSS nations in which there is no significant gender gap in eighth-grade math and science achievement.


CHAPTER 2 : CURRICULUM

  • The content taught in U.S. eighth-grade mathematics classrooms is at a seventh-grade level in comparison to other countries.

  • Topic coverage in U.S. eighth-grade mathematics classes is not as focused as in Germany and Japan.

  • In science, the degree of topic focus in the eighth-grade curriculum may be similar to that of other countries.

  • Our nation is atypical among TIMSS countries in its lack of a nationally-defined curriculum.

  • U.S. eighth graders spend more hours per year in math and science classes than German and Japanese students.


CHAPTER 3 : TEACHING

  • The content of U.S. mathematics classes requires less high-level thought than classes in Germany and Japan.

  • U.S. mathematics teachers' typical goal is to teach students how to do something, while Japanese teachers' goal is to help them understand mathematical concepts.

  • Japanese teachers widely practice what the U.S. mathematics reform recommends, while U.S. teachers do so less frequently.

  • Although most U.S. math teachers report familiarity with reform recommendations, only a few apply the key points in their classrooms.


CHAPTER 4 : TEACHERS' LIVES

  • Unlike new U.S. teachers, new Japanese and German teachers receive long-term structured apprenticeships in their profession.

  • Japanese teachers have more opportunities to discuss teaching-related issues than do U.S. teachers.

  • U.S. teachers have more college education than their colleagues in all but a few TIMSS countries.

  • Student diversity and poor discipline are challenges not only for U.S. teachers, but for their German colleagues as well.

CHAPTER 5 : STUDENTS' LIVES

  • Eighth-grade students of different abilities are typically divided into different classrooms in the U.S., and different schools in Germany. In Japan, no ability grouping is practiced.

  • In the U.S. students in higher-level mathematics classes study different material than students in lower-level classes. In Germany and Japan, all students study the same material, although in Germany, lower-level classes study it less deeply and rigorously.

  • Japanese eighth-graders are preparing for a high-stakes examination to enter high school at the end of ninth grade.

  • U.S. teachers assign more homework and spend more class time discussing it than teachers in Germany and Japan. U.S. students report about the same amount of out-of-school math and science study as their Japanese and German counterparts.

  • Heavy TV watching is as common among U.S. eighth graders as it is among their Japanese counterparts.

CONCLUSIONS

  • No single factor can be considered to influence student performance in isolation from other factors. There are no single answers to complex questions.

  • The content of U.S. eighth-grade mathematics classes is not as challenging as that of other countries, and topic coverage is not as focused.

  • Most U.S. mathematics teachers report familiarity with reform recommendations, although only a few apply the key points in their classrooms.

  • Evidence suggests that U.S. teachers do not receive as much practical training and daily support as their German and Japanese colleagues.

WORKS CITED/APPENDIXES

In addition to browsing the report online, the entire report in a single PDF (Portable Document Format) file can also be downloaded, viewed, and printed.
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National Center for Education Statistics - http://nces.ed.gov
U.S. Department of Education