Poor U.S. Math Achievement Starts as Early as 4th Grade

Poor U.S. Math Achievement Starts as Early as 4th Grade

A study by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) and

funded by the U.S. Department of Education found that U.S.

students in 4th and 8th grade perform consistently below

most of their peers around the world and continue that

trend into high school and beyond. The study bucks the

“widely held belief” that U.S. students do well in

mathematics in grade school but decline precipitously

in high school, researchers said.

The study, “Reassessing U.S. International Mathematics

Performance: New Findings from the 2003 TIMSS and PISA,”

focused on students in the United States and 11 other

industrial countries. U.S. students consistently performed

below average, ranking 8th or 9th out of twelve at all

three grade levels. These findings suggest that U.S.

reform proposals to strengthen mathematics instruction

in the upper grades should be expanded to include

improving U.S. mathematics instruction beginning in

the primary grades.

“The conventional wisdom is that U.S. students perform

above average in grades 4 and 8, and then decline sharply

in high school,” says Steven Leinwand, principal research

analyst at AIR and one of the report's authors. “But this

study proves the conventional wisdom is dead wrong.”

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