TIMSS 1999

Third International Mathematics and Science Study Repeat

The IEA Third International Mathematics and Science Study Repeat (TIMSS 1999) was the second in a series of IEA studies to measure trends in students' mathematics and science achievement. TIMSS 1999 measured progress in eighth grade students' learning of mathematics and science, and provided countries that participated in the 1995 assessment with trend data for students at this educational level.

In addition, the four-year period between the first and second data collection saw the population of students originally assessed as fourth-graders move on to the eighth grade. This development allowed countries that participated in 1995 at the fourth grade to compare the performance of fourth-graders in that year with their performance as eighth-graders in 1999. As in the 1995 study, TIMSS 1999 also investigated the contexts for learning mathematics and science in participating countries through the use of background questionnaires. Information was collected about education systems, curricula, instructional practices, and characteristics of students, teachers, and schools. The main data collection was conducted in 1998–1999.

Target population

TIMSS 1999 assessed students in the eighth grade.

Participating education systems

Australia, Belgium (Flemish), Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Chinese Taipei, Cyprus, Czech Republic, England, Finland, Hong Kong SAR, Hungary, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malaysia, Moldova, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines, Romania, Russian Federation, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, South Africa, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, and United States.

Key findings

Student achievement and attitudes

Five Asian countries (Singapore, Korea, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong SAR, Japan) were the top performers in mathematics. All of these countries had about 65% or more of their students reach the Upper Quarter Benchmark. Students reaching this benchmark were able to apply their mathematical understanding and knowledge in a variety of relatively complex situations involving fractions, decimals, geometric properties, and algebraic expressions.

Chinese Taipei and Singapore had more than half of their students reach the Upper Quarter Benchmark in science, a level attained by just 25% of all students assessed internationally. Students reaching this benchmark showed conceptual understanding of various science cycles, systems, and principles.

Across the participating countries, students generally had positive attitudes toward mathematics and science, although less so in countries where science was taught in separate subjects at the eighth grade.

Changes over time

Between 1995 and 1999, countries that showed an increase in average mathematics achievement at the eighth grade were Latvia (Latvian-speaking schools), Canada, and Cyprus. For science, an increase in achievement was observed in Latvia (Latvian-speaking schools), Lithuania, Canada, and Hungary.

Gender differences

In mathematics, most gender differences were negligible (except in Israel, the Czech Republic, Iran, and Tunisia). No country showed a significant increase in gender differences over time; Korea showed a decrease in comparison to 1995. In science, boys outperformed girls in 16 countries. A significant reduction between 1995 and 1999 in the gender difference occurred in Hong Kong SAR, Slovenia, and Israel.

Positive self-concept in the ability to do mathematics and science was associated with higher achievement. In general, boys had a more positive self-concept than girls.

Curriculum and instruction

In all countries except three (Australia, Canada, United States), specifications for students' curricular goals in mathematics and science were developed within national curricula. Seventeen countries offered separate courses in different science subjects (earth science, biology, chemistry, and physics).

On average, the percentage of instructional time designated for mathematics instruction remained about the same from fourth to sixth grade, but decreased by the eighth grade (from 17–16% to 13%). In contrast, the instructional time specified for science increased from fourth to eighth grade (from 11% to 16%).

In mathematics classes, the two most predominant activities across countries were teacher lectures and teacher-guided student practice (which occupied nearly half of all class time). Science teachers reported spending almost 25% of their class time on lecturing, with 15% of the class time devoted to student experiments and 14% to teacher-guided student practice.

Students in schools that reported being well resourced generally had higher average mathematics and science achievement.

For more information, please contact the TIMSS & PIRLS International Study Center.

Major publications

Gonzalez, E.J., & Miles, J.A. (Eds.). (2001). TIMSS 1999 user guide for the international database. Chestnut Hill, MA: Boston College.

Martin, M.O., Gregory, K.D., & Stemler, S.E. (Eds.). (2000). TIMSS 1999 technical report. Chestnut Hill, MA: Boston College.

Martin, M.O., Mullis, I.V.S., Gonzalez, E.J., Gregory, K.D., Smith, T.A., Chrostowski, S.J., Garden, R.A., & O'Connor, K.M. (2000). TIMSS 1999 international science report: Findings from IEA's repeat of the Third International Mathematics and Science Study at the eighth grade. Chestnut Hill, MA: Boston College.

Mullis, I.V.S., Martin, M.O., Gonzalez, E.J., Gregory, K.D., Garden, R.A., O'Connor, K.M., Chrostowski, S.J., & Smith, T.A. (2000). TIMSS 1999 international mathematics report: Findings from IEA's repeat of the Third International Mathematics and Science Study at the eighth grade. Chestnut Hill, MA: Boston College.