U.S. Students Make Math Gains

American fourth- and eighth-graders rank ninth and sixth internationally.
American children had a better handle on math last year than they did in 2003 and they rank well in global comparisons, according to a survey released Tuesday.

Trends in International Mathematics and Science (Timss), a survey conducted by the International Study Center at Boston College, showed that fourth- and eighth-graders earned higher test scores than in previous years. American students also scored better than average when compared to students in other countries.

The math test compared fourth-graders in 36 countries and eighth-graders in 48 countries.

Fourth-graders in the United States ranked ninth, with average math scores of 529, compared to the global average of 500. They performed better than students in 24 other countries and equal to students in four other countries. The countries that ranked higher than the United States are in Asia and Europe.

American eighth-graders ranked sixth, scoring 508 on average, compared to the international average of 500, according to an analysis by the National Center for Education Statistics. Only five countries, all in Asia, could boast better scores. U.S. eighth-graders outperformed their peers in 37 countries and ranked equal to their counterparts in five other countries.

While American students fared well overall, the percentage of students in U.S. schools who achieved high marks in math was far behind the top-performing countries.

Ten percent of American fourth-graders scored at or above advanced international math benchmarks, while the international median for hitting that mark was 5%. Only seven countries had more students hitting that mark. Singapore ranked first among those countries, with 41% of its students performing at or above advanced levels.

Six percent of American eight-graders performed at or above the advanced benchmark, while the international median is 2%. Just seven countries can boast more eighth-graders reaching that mark. Forty-five percent of students in Taiwan ranked first, with 45% of its students performing at or above the advanced level.

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