The U.S. average score in mathematics literacy (487) was lower than the OECD average score (496) in 2009, as it was in 2003 and 2006. In 2009, among the 33 other OECD countries, 17 countries had higher average scores than the United States, 5 had lower average scores, and 11 had average scores not measurably different from the U.S. average. The OECD countries with average scores higher than the U.S. average were: Korea, Finland, Switzerland, Japan, Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Belgium, Australia, Germany, Estonia, Iceland, Denmark, Slovenia, Norway, France, and the Slovak Republic. The OECD countries with lower average scores than the United States were Greece, Israel, Turkey, Chile, and Mexico. Among the other 64 OECD countries and education systems, 23 had higher average scores than the United States, 29 had lower average scores, and 12 had average scores not measurably different from the U.S. average score.
PISA describes six mathematics literacy proficiency levels ranging from level 1 to level 6, the most advanced. Twenty-seven percent of U.S. students scored at or above proficiency level 4. This is lower than the 32 percent of students in the OECD countries on average that scored at or above level 4. At level 4 students can "complete higher order tasks" such as "solving problems that involve visual or spatial reasoning...in unfamiliar contexts." Twenty-three percent of U.S. students scored below level 2. Below level 2 students may not be able to consistently "employ basic algorithms," or make "literal interpretations of the results" of mathematical operations in real-life settings.
Trends in Performance in Mathematics Literacy
The U.S. average score in mathematics literacy in 2009 was higher than the U.S. average in 2006 but not measurably different from the U.S. average in 2003, the earliest time point to which PISA 2009 performance can be compared in mathematics literacy.