TIMSS 2011 assessed student achievement in mathematics and science at the fourth and eighth grades, as well as achievement trends over a 16-year period. The study gathered information about the contexts for learning mathematics and science from participating students, their teachers, and their school principals, as well as data about the mathematics and science curricula in each country. In this cycle, new context questionnaire scales were developed to offer greater insights into home supports and school environments for teaching and learning.
As TIMSS and PIRLS were both conducted in 2011, countries had the opportunity to assess the same fourth grade students in mathematics, science, and reading. The Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), which provides information from parents about children's home learning experiences prior to entering school, included for the first time questions concerning mathematics and science as part of the TIMSS background data collection at the fourth grade, for countries participating in the joint assessment. The TIMSS 2011 main data collection was carried out in 2010–2011.
The TIMSS & PIRLS International Study Center, Lynch School of Education, Boston College served as the international study center for TIMSS 2011, working in close cooperation with the IEA, and the national centers of participating countries.
For more information, including in-depth reports and analyses, please visit the TIMSS 2011 website.
TIMSS 2011 assessed students enrolled in the fourth and eighth grades.
Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belgium (Flemish), Botswana, Canada (Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec), Chile, Chinese Taipei, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, England, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Honduras, Hong Kong SAR, Hungary, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Kuwait, Lebanon, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malaysia, Malta, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Norway, Oman, Palestinian National Authority, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Syria, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates (with Abu Dhabi and Dubai as benchmarking systems), United States (with nine benchmarking states: Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina), and Yemen.
Student Achievement in Mathematics and Science
There was a substantial range in performance between the highest and lowest performing countries. In mathematics, the top-performing countries were Singapore, Korea, and Hong Kong SAR at the fourth grade, and Korea, Singapore, and Chinese Taipei at the eighth grade. Science achievement at the fourth grade was highest in Korea and Singapore; Singapore had the top scores at the eighth grade level, followed by Chinese Taipei, Korea, and Japan.
In general, the highest performing countries also had the largest percentages of students reaching the Advanced International Benchmarks, and the gaps were especially large at the highest levels. In fourth grade mathematics, Singapore had 43% of its students reaching the Advanced International Benchmark, followed by Korea, Hong Kong SAR, Chinese Taipei, and Japan with 30% or more. In science at the fourth grade, Singapore and Korea had 33% and 29% of their students, respectively, reaching this benchmark. In mathematics at the eighth grade, the highest performing countries—Chinese Taipei, Singapore, and Korea—had nearly half of their students reaching the Advanced International Benchmark. In science, about 40% of eighth grade students in Singapore reached this benchmark, followed by 24% to 18% of students in Chinese Taipei, Korea, and Japan.
More countries demonstrated relative strengths in knowing mathematics and science (e.g., recalling, recognizing, computing, describing) than in applying knowledge and reasoning.
Between 1995 and 2011, many countries showed significant improvement in their overall mathematics and science achievement at the fourth grade. At the eighth grade, there was more balance between growth and decline in both subjects. Similarly, there was more improvement since 1995 across the international benchmarks at the fourth grade than at the eighth grade.
School Factors and Teachers
The most successful schools in mathematics and science tended to have more affluent student bodies, better working conditions and facilities, and more instructional materials (books, computers, technological support, and supplies). Higher average achievement was also associated with students attending schools that emphasize academic success, as indicated by rigorous curricular goals, effective teachers, students that desire to do well, and parental support. Students who attended schools with discipline or safety problems and who reported more frequent bullying had much lower achievement than their counterparts in safe and orderly schools.
Higher mathematics and science achievement at both the fourth and eighth grades was also positively related to students' and teachers' reports of engaging instruction, as well as students having more experienced, confident, and satisfied teachers.
Home and Background Factors
The TIMSS findings also pointed to a strong positive association between students' achievement in the fourth grade and their early learning experiences. For instance, students with strong performance in mathematics at the fourth grade had parents who reported engaging in early numeracy activities with their children (e.g., counting rhymes, playing with number toys), that their children had attended preprimary education, and that they started school able to do early numeracy tasks (e.g., simple addition and subtraction).
Home resources for learning and high expectation by parents and students for education were associated with higher average mathematics and science achievement at the fourth and eighth grades.
The TIMSS results showed a strong positive relationship within countries between students' achievement in mathematics and science, and their attitudes toward those subjects (e.g., liking learning and feeling confident in their abilities). Notably, substantially fewer students reported positive attitudes toward learning mathematics and science at the eighth grade than at the fourth grade.
Relationships among Reading, Mathematics, and Science Achievement at the Fourth Grade
Among the 34 countries and three benchmarking systems that administered TIMSS and PIRLS 2011 to the same fourth grade students, the majority had at least 90% of their fourth grade students reaching the Low International Benchmarks in mathematics, science, and reading. Over 35% of students in Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Finland, Hong Kong SAR, and the Russian Federation reached the High International Benchmarks in all three subjects. Most countries were relatively more successful in one or two of the subjects than another, particularly at the higher levels.
Findings for these countries also suggest that reading ability was associated with mathematics and science achievement: greater reading demands made the fourth grade TIMSS items more challenging for weaker readers, although this varied across countries. In particular, the mathematics achievement difference between good and poor readers was significant in a number of countries. Analyses also indicated several characteristics of schools—being safe and orderly, supporting academic success, and providing engaging instruction—that were associated with higher achievement in these subjects, even after controlling for home background.
A home environment supportive of educational attainment was shown to be important. The number of books in the home was related to the frequency of early literacy and numeracy activities, and these activities were related to the child's early literacy and numeracy skills at the beginning of first grade. Interestingly, a stronger emphasis on early literacy activities than on numeracy activities seemed to be associated with both the level of children's literacy and numeracy skills when entering school and their fourth grade achievement.
For more information, please contact the TIMSS & PIRLS International Study Center.
For information about national reports and other analyses resulting from TIMSS 2011, please visit National Study Reports.