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.”