FIMS. First International Mathematics Study

The IEA First International Mathematics Study (FIMS) was conducted to investigate the outcomes of various school systems in a field of schooling that was, at the time, undergoing various reforms in many countries. A so-called 'new mathematics' had been introduced in some education systems, resulting from international agreement on what essential new material should be included in the curriculum.

The research questions of FIMS related to the organization of the education systems in participating countries, their curriculum, and the methods of instruction. The study also examined how mathematics teaching and learning might be influenced by societal, scientific, and technological change. The research instruments included a student test, a "student opinion booklet" (to measure some affective outcomes of education), and background questionnaires (for students, teachers, school principals, and experts on education in the participating countries). The data were collected in 1964.

Target population

The target populations for FIMS were 13-year-old students and pre-university students.

Participating education systems

Australia, Belgium, England, Finland, France, Germany (FRG), Israel, Japan, Netherlands, Scotland, Sweden, and United States.

Key findings

Student achievement and attitudes

Students who had taken courses in 'new mathematics' achieved higher scores on items in traditional mathematics than students who had not taken such courses.

In most countries at the lower-secondary level, achievement in mathematics was positively correlated with students' views of mathematics learning as an open and inquiry-centered process. Conversely, the highest level of achievement among pre-university students specializing in mathematics was accompanied with a view of mathematics learning as a process of memorization and following rules.

At all levels of schooling and across countries, students' levels of expressed interest in mathematics was positively correlated with achievement. In co-educational schools, boys expressed significantly more interest in mathematics than girls, but there was no significant gender difference in single-sex schools.

Gender differences

Boys outperformed girls at all grade levels to a greater extent in single-sex than in co-educational schools. The lowest gender-related differences were identified in the United States and Sweden; the highest were in Belgium, England, Japan, and the Netherlands.

Social environment and family

There was evidence of differences in mathematics achievement between urban and rural communities in only two countries, Japan and the United States. In Japan, students in urban schools outperformed students in rural schools in the case of the younger group. In the United States, this was true for all tested levels of schooling.

The correlation between parents' education and student achievement in mathematics varied considerably across countries. For the grade containing the majority of 13-year-olds, Japan and England displayed the highest correlations between achievement and both parents' education and father's occupational status. At the pre-university level, a significant correlation was found only for the United States. On average, parents of students at the pre-university level had 1.7 more years of formal schooling. The difference varied from 0.5 years in the United States to 3.6 years in Germany.

Major publications

Husén, T. (Ed.). (1967). International study of achievement in mathematics: A comparison of twelve countries (Vols. 1–2). Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell.

Postlethwaite, N. (1967). School organization and student achievement: A study based on achievement in mathematics in twelve countries. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell.