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International Achievement in Mathematics and Science

The 2007 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) is the fourth administration since 1995 of this international comparison. Developed and implemented at the international level by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA)—an international organization of national research institutions and governmental research agencies—TIMSS is used to measure over time the mathematics and science knowledge and skills of fourth- and eighth-graders. TIMSS is designed to align broadly with mathematics and science curricula in the participating countries.

This indicator focuses on the performance of U.S. students relative to that of their peers in other countries in 2007.1 Thirty-six countries or educational jurisdictions participated at grade four in 2007, while 48 participated at grade eight.2

The mathematics and science scales are each reported on a scale from 0 to 1,000, and the international mean score is set at 500, with an international standard deviation of 100. The scaling of data is conducted separately for each grade and each content domain. While the scales were created to each have a mean of 500 and a standard deviation of 100, the subject matter and the level of difficulty of items necessarily differ between the assessments at both grades. Therefore, direct comparisons between scores across grades should not be made.

Mathematics Results

The average mathematics scores for both U.S. fourth- and eighth-graders were higher than the TIMSS scale average (table 1). In 2007, the average score of U.S. fourth-graders was 529 and the average score of U.S. eighth-graders was 508, compared with the TIMSS scale average of 500 at each grade level.

At grade four, the average U.S. mathematics score was higher than those in 23 of the 35 other countries, lower than those in 8 countries (all 8 were in Asia or Europe), and not measurably different from the average scores in the remaining 4 countries.

At grade eight, the average U.S. mathematics score was higher than those in 37 of the 47 other countries, lower than those in 5 countries (all of them located in Asia), and not measurably different from the average scores in the other 5 countries.

Table 1. Average mathematics scores of fourth- and eighth-grade students, by country: 2007


Average mathematics scores of fourth- and eighth-grade students, by country: 2007

Average score is higher than U.S. average score (p < .05)
Average score is not measurably different from the U.S. average score (p < .05)
Average score is lower than the U.S. average score (p < .05)
1 Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People's Republic of China.
2 National Target Population does not include all of the International Target Population defined by the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) (see appendix A).
3 Nearly satisfied guidelines for sample participation rates only after substitute schools were included (see appendix A).
4 Met guidelines for sample participation rates only after substitute schools were included (see appendix A).
5 National Defined Population covers 90 percent to 95 percent of National Target Population (see appendix A).
6 Kuwait tested the same cohort of students as other countries, but later in 2007, at the beginning of the next school year.
7 National Defined Population covers less than 90 percent of National Target Population (but at least 77 percent, see appendix A).
NOTE: Countries are ordered by 2007 average score. The tests for significance take into account the standard error for the reported difference. Thus, a small difference between the United States and one country may be significant while a large difference between the United States and another country may not be significant. The standard errors of the estimates are shown in tables E-1 and E-2 available at http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2009001.
SOURCE: Table 3 in Gonzales, P., Williams, T., Jocelyn, L., Roey, S., Kastberg, D., and Brenwald, S. (2008). Highlights From TIMSS 2007: Mathematics and Science Achievement of U.S. Fourth- and Eighth-Grade Students in an International Context (NCES 2009-001). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences. Retrieved January 1, 2009, from http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2009001.

Science Results

The average science scores for both U.S. fourth- and eighth-graders were higher than the TIMSS scale average (table 2). In 2007, the average score of U.S. fourth-graders was 539 and the average score of U.S. eighth-graders was 520, compared to the TIMSS scale average of 500 at each grade level.

At grade four, the average U.S. science score was higher than those in 25 of the 35 other countries, lower than the average scores in 4 countries (all of them in Asia), and not measurably different from the average scores of students in the remaining 6 countries.

At grade eight, the average U.S. science score was higher than those in 35 of the 47 other countries, lower than in 9 countries (all located in Asia or Europe), and not measurably different from the average scores in the other 3 countries.

Table 2. Average science scores of fourth- and eighth-grade students, by country: 2007


Average science scores of fourth- and eighth-grade students, by country: 2007

Average score is higher than U.S. average score (p < .05)
Average score is not measurably different from the U.S. average score (p < .05)
Average score is lower than the U.S. average score (p < .05)
1 Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People's Republic of China.
2 National Target Population does not include all of the International Target Population defined by the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) (see appendix A).
3 Met guidelines for sample participation rates only after substitute schools were included (see appendix A).
4 National Defined Population covers 90 percent to 95 percent of National Target Population (see appendix A).
5 Nearly satisfied guidelines for sample participation rates only after substitute schools were included (see appendix A).
6 Kuwait tested the same cohort of students as other countries, but later in 2007, at the beginning of the next school year.
7 National Defined Population covers less than 90 percent of National Target Population (but at least 77 percent, see appendix A).
NOTE: Countries are ordered by 2007 average score. The tests for significance take into account the standard error for the reported difference. Thus, a small difference between the United States and one country may be significant while a large difference between the United States and another country may not be significant. The standard errors of the estimates are shown in tables E-20 and E-21 available at http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2009001.
SOURCE: Table 11 in Gonzales, P., Williams, T., Jocelyn, L., Roey, S., Kastberg, D., and Brenwald, S. (2008). Highlights From TIMSS 2007: Mathematics and Science Achievement of U.S. Fourth- and Eighth-Grade Students in an International Context (NCES 2009–001). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences. Retrieved January 1, 2009, from http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2009001.


1 At grade four, a total of 257 schools and 10,350 students participated in the United States in 2007. At grade eight, 239 schools and 9,723 students participated. The overall weighted school response rate in the United States was 70 percent at grade four before the use of substitute schools. The final weighted student response rate at grade four was 95 percent. At grade eight, the overall weighted school response rate before the use of substitute schools was 68 percent. The final weighted student response rate at grade eight was 93 percent.
2 The total number of countries reported here differs from the total number reported in the international TIMSS reports (Mullis et al. 2008; Martin et al. 2008). In addition to the 36 countries at grade four and 48 countries at grade eight, 8 other educational jurisdictions, or “benchmarking” entities, participated: the states of Massachusetts and Minnesota; the Canadian provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; and the Basque region of Spain.

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