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Annual Reports and Information Staff (Annual Reports)
Preprimary, Elementary, and Secondary Education

Mathematics Performance

(Last Updated: May 2020)

At grade 4, the average mathematics score in 2019 (241) was higher than the scores in both 2017 (240), when the assessment was last administered, and 1990 (213). At grade 8, the mathematics score in 2019 (282) was lower than the score in 2017 (283), but it was higher than the score in 1990 (263). There was no measurable difference between average math scores for males and females at grade 8 in 2019.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) assesses student performance in mathematics at grades 4, 8, and 12 in both public and private schools across the nation. NAEP mathematics scale scores range from 0 to 500 for grades 4 and 8 and from 0 to 300 for grade 12.1 NAEP achievement levels define what students should know and be able to do: NAEP Basic indicates partial mastery of fundamental skills, NAEP Proficient indicates solid academic performance and demonstrated competency over challenging subject matter, and NAEP Advanced indicates superior performance beyond proficient.2 NAEP mathematics assessments have been administered periodically since 1990, more frequently in grades 4 and 8 than in grade 12.3 The most recent mathematics assessments were conducted in 2019 for grades 4, 8, and 12; however, data for grade 12 in 2019 were not available in time for publication. In this indicator, data for grade 12 come from the 2015 assessment, the most recent NAEP assessment year with available data.4

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Figure 1. Average National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) mathematics scale scores of 4th- and 8th-grade students: Selected years, 1990–2019
Figure 1. Average National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) mathematics scale scores of 4th- and 8th-grade students: Selected years, 1990–2019

NOTE: Includes public and private schools. Average scores are reported on a 0–500 scale at grades 4 and 8; however, the scale scores were derived separately and therefore scores cannot be compared across grades. Grade 12 mathematics scores are not shown because they are reported on a scale of 0 to 300. Testing accommodations (e.g., extended time, small-group testing) for children with disabilities and English language learners were not permitted in 1990 and 1992.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), selected years, 1990–2019 Mathematics Assessments, NAEP Data Explorer. See Digest of Education Statistics 2019, table 222.10.

Figure 2. Percentage distribution of 4th-, 8th-, and 12th-grade students, by National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) mathematics achievement levels: Selected years, 1990–2019
Figure 2. Percentage distribution of 4th-, 8th-, and 12th-grade students, by National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) mathematics achievement levels: Selected years, 1990–2019

1 In 2005, there were major changes to the framework and content of the grade 12 assessment, and, as a result, scores from 2005 and later assessment years cannot be compared with scores and results from earlier assessment years. Assessment was not conducted for grade 12 in 2007, 2011, and 2017. Data for grade 12 in 2019 were not available in time for publication.

NOTE: Includes public and private schools. Achievement levels define what students should know and be able to do: NAEP Basic indicates partial mastery of fundamental skills, NAEP Proficient indicates demonstrated competency over challenging subject matter, and NAEP Advanced indicates superior performance beyond proficient. Testing accommodations (e.g., extended time, small-group testing) for children with disabilities and English language learners were not permitted in 1990 and 1992. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), selected years, 1990–2019 Mathematics Assessments, NAEP Data Explorer. See Digest of Education Statistics 2019, table 222.12.

Figure 3. Average National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) mathematics scale scores of 4th-grade students, by selected characteristics: Selected years, 1990–2019
Figure 3. Average National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) mathematics scale scores of 4th-grade students, by selected characteristics: Selected years, 1990–2019

1 High-poverty schools are defined as schools where 76 to 100 percent of the students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch (FRPL); mid-high poverty schools are schools where 51 to 75 percent of the students are eligible for FRPL; mid-low poverty schools are schools where 26 to 50 percent of the students are eligible for FRPL; and low-poverty schools are schools where 25 percent or less of the students are eligible for FRPL. For more information on eligibility for FRPL and its relationship to poverty, see the NCES blog post “Free or reduced price lunch: A proxy for poverty?” The nonresponse rate for free or reduced-price lunch was greater than 15 percent but not greater than 50 percent.

NOTE: Includes public and private schools. The mathematics scale scores range from 0 to 500. Scale scores for American Indian/Alaska Native students were suppressed in 1990 and 1992 and for Asian/Pacific Islander students in 2000 because reporting standards were not met (too few cases for a reliable estimate). Testing accommodations (e.g., extended time, small-group testing) for children with disabilities and English language learners were not permitted in 1990 and 1992. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), selected years, 1990–2019 Mathematics Assessments, NAEP Data Explorer. See Digest of Education Statistics 2019, tables 222.10 and 222.12.

Figure 4. Average National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) mathematics scale scores of 8th-grade students, by selected characteristics: Selected years, 1990–2019
Figure 4. Average National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) mathematics scale scores of 8th-grade students, by selected characteristics: Selected years, 1990–2019

1 High-poverty schools are defined as schools where 76 to 100 percent of the students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch (FRPL); mid-high poverty schools are schools where 51 to 75 percent of the students are eligible for FRPL; mid-low poverty schools are schools where 26 to 50 percent of the students are eligible for FRPL; and low-poverty schools are schools where 25 percent or less of the students are eligible for FRPL. For more information on eligibility for FRPL and its relationship to poverty, see the NCES blog post “Free or reduced price lunch: A proxy for poverty?” The nonresponse rate for free or reduced-price lunch was greater than 15 percent but not greater than 50 percent.

NOTE: Includes public and private schools. The mathematics scale scores range from 0 to 500. Scale scores for Asian/Pacific Islander students in 1996 and for American Indian/Alaska Native students in 1990, 1992, and 1996 were suppressed because reporting standards were not met (too few cases for a reliable estimate). Testing accommodations (e.g., extended time, small-group testing) for children with disabilities and English language learners were not permitted in 1990 and 1992. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), selected years, 1990–2019 Mathematics Assessments, NAEP Data Explorer. See Digest of Education Statistics 2019, tables 222.10 and 222.12.

Figure 5. Average National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) mathematics scale scores of 12th-grade students, by selected characteristics: Selected years, 2005–2015
Figure 5. Average National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) mathematics scale scores of 12th-grade students, by selected characteristics: Selected years, 2005–2015

‡ Reporting standards not met. There were too few cases for a reliable estimate.

1 High-poverty schools are defined as schools where 76 to 100 percent of the students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch (FRPL); mid-high poverty schools are schools where 51 to 75 percent of the students are eligible for FRPL; mid-low poverty schools are schools where 26 to 50 percent of the students are eligible for FRPL; and low-poverty schools are schools where 25 percent or less of the students are eligible for FRPL. For more information on eligibility for FRPL and its relationship to poverty, see the NCES blog post “Free or reduced price lunch: A proxy for poverty?”

NOTE: Includes public and private schools. The mathematics scale scores range from 0 to 300. Assessment was not conducted for grade 12 in 2007, 2011, and 2017. The most recent mathematics assessment for grade 12 was conducted in 2019; however, data for grade 12 in 2019 were not available in time for publication. In this figure, data for grade 12 come from the 2015 assessment, the most recent NAEP assessment year with available data. Because of major changes to the framework and content of the grade 12 assessment, scores from 2005 and later assessment years cannot be compared with scores from earlier assessment years. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), selected years, 2005–2015 Mathematics Assessments, NAEP Data Explorer. See Digest of Education Statistics 2019, tables 222.10 and 222.12.

Figure 6. Change in average National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) mathematics scale scores of 4th- and 8th-grade public school students, by state: 2017 to 2019
Figure 6. Change in average National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) mathematics scale scores of 4th- and 8th-grade public school students, by state: 2017 to 2019

NOTE: At grades 4 and 8, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) mathematics scale ranges from 0 to 500.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2017 and 2019 Mathematics Assessments, NAEP Data Explorer. See Digest of Education Statistics 2019, tables 222.50 and 222.60.


1 Average scores are reported on a 0–500 scale at grades 4 and 8; however, the scale scores were derived separately and therefore scores cannot be compared across grades.

2 NAEP achievement-level setting is based on the judgments of a broadly representative panel of teachers, education specialists, and members of the general public. The authorizing legislation for NAEP requires that the achievement levels be used on a trial basis until the Commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) determines that the achievement levels are reasonable, valid, and informative to the public (20 USC § 9622(e)(2)(C)). The NCES Commissioner’s determination is to be based on a congressionally mandated, rigorous, and independent evaluation. The latest evaluation of the achievement levels was conducted by a committee convened by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in 2016. The evaluation concluded that further evidence should be gathered to determine whether the achievement levels are reasonable, valid, and informative. Accordingly, the NCES Commissioner determined that the trial status of the achievement levels should be maintained at this time. Read more about the NAEP mathematics achievement levels by grade.

3 This indicator presents data from the Main NAEP mathematics assessment, which is not comparable to the Long-Term Trend NAEP mathematics assessment. The Main NAEP mathematics assessment was first administered in 1990 and assesses student performance at grades 4, 8, and 12, while the Long-Term Trend NAEP mathematics assessment was first administered in 1973 and assesses student performance at ages 9, 13, and 17. In addition, the two assessments differ in the content assessed, how often the assessment is administered, and how the results are reported.

4 NAEP mathematics scores for 4th-grade students in 2019 had a mean of 241 and a standard deviation (SD) of 32. NAEP mathematics scores for 8th-grade students in 2019 had a mean of 282 and an SD of 40. NAEP mathematics scores for 12th-grade students in 2015 had a mean of 152 and an SD of 34 (retrieved December 20, 2019, from the Main NAEP Data Explorer).

5 The 2005 mathematics framework for grade 12 introduced changes from the previous framework in order to reflect adjustments in curricular emphases and to ensure an appropriate balance of content. Consequently, the 12th-grade mathematics results in 2005 and subsequent years could not be compared to previous assessments, and a new trend line was established beginning in 2005.

6 While NAEP reported some data on students of Two or more races for earlier years, the reporting standards changed in 2011.

7 High-poverty schools are defined as schools where 76 to 100 percent of the students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch (FRPL); mid-high poverty schools are schools where 51 to 75 percent of the students are eligible for FRPL; mid-low poverty schools are schools where 26 to 50 percent of the students are eligible for FRPL; and low-poverty schools are schools where 25 percent or less of the students are eligible for FRPL.

8 Nonresponse rate for this variable was greater than 15 percent but not greater than 50 percent.

9 Nonresponse rate for this variable was greater than 15 percent but not greater than 50 percent.

10 NAEP results serve as a common metric for all states and selected urban district and are not comparable to results from assessments administered by state education agencies.

Supplemental Information

Table 222.10 (Digest 2019): Average National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) mathematics scale score, by sex, race/ethnicity, and grade: Selected years, 1990 through 2019;
Table 222.12 (Digest 2019): Average National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) mathematics scale score and percentage of students attaining NAEP mathematics achievement levels, by selected school and student characteristics and grade: Selected years, 1990 through 2019;
Table 222.50 (Digest 2019): Average National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) mathematics scale score of 4th-grade public school students, by state: Selected years, 1992 through 2019;
Table 222.60 (Digest 2019): Average National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) mathematics scale score of 8th-grade public school students, by state: Selected years, 1990 through 2019;
Table 222.77 (Digest 2019): Average National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) mathematics scale score and standard deviation, by selected student characteristics, percentile, and grade: Selected years, 1990 through 2019
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