King’s College academic quoted in Commons re decline in maths standards says TIMSS reveals a different trend. So what did TIMSS find?

Janet Downs's picture
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“In TIMSS* 2007 England performed significantly above the TIMSS scale average in both grades and subjects for the first time,” wrote the National Foundation for Education Research (NFER). The scores of English 10 and 14 year-olds had increased appreciably in both Maths and Science since the tests were first taken in 1999.

King’s College academic, Dr Jeremy Hodgen, whose own research found a slight decline in pupils’ ability to handle ratio, fractions and algebra and a slight increase in their ability to handle decimals over 30 years, told FullFact that TIMSS scores revealed a different trend – maths ability in English pupils was improving. He explained that the National Numeracy Strategy meant the Maths curriculum was closer to areas tested by TIMSS, and his own research measured ability three months before TIMSS.

At the beginning of 2011, LSN reported how in July 2010 Baroness Morgan of Drefelin asked Lord Hill why the positive TIMSS results were ignored by ministers who instead appeared to relish rubbishing the achievement of English pupils. She did not receive a reply. The Government continues to ignore TIMSS while repeating the flawed 2000 PISA UK figures to demonstrate falling standards.

When the Government claims that its reforms are underpinned by evidence, it is essential that it considers all the evidence and not just that which appears to confirm its preconceived ideas.

*Trends in Maths and Science Survey

 
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Rebecca Hanson's picture
Tue, 03/07/2012 - 10:07

TIMMS questions are much more procedural - standard exam questions. You can teach students to be able to do them even if they don't understand what they are doing.

PISA questions are generally set in contexts so students have to puzzle out which maths to use and work outside the box. It's much harder to teach students to be able to do PISA questions without teaching them to really understand maths and work with it flexibly.

The introduction of the National Curriculum stripped out a lot of the teaching which prepared students well for PISA type questions so there was a decline in standards. Recent initiatives in combination with the 2008 curriculum have worked hard to begin to repair that damage.

Gove and Gibb chose to used declining PISA results (in a context of good TIMSS results) to justify their determination to shut down these initiatives and to return to Victorian style drill of facts.

It's really quite difficult to communicate quite how ignorant and inappropriate all their comments and interpretation of the data are with regards to maths education and how indescribably bad this new primary maths curriculum is. Because Gove and Gibb wear suits and speak confidently and fluently people simply fail to come close to grasping their desperate level of ignorance in maths education.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Wed, 04/07/2012 - 20:52

TIMSS not TIMMS. Why do I still do that!

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