Trends in the Well-Being of America's Children and Youth, 1997. EA 2.2 Mathematics proficiency

04/01/1997

One of the National Education Goals for the year 2000, adopted by Congress, is to improve the relative standing of U.S. students in mathematics achievement.21 In a 1995 comparison of American eighth graders to 40 other countries, the Third International Math and Science Study showed that U.S. students had significantly lower overall mathematics proficiency scores than students in 20 countries, had similar scores to students in 13 countries, and had higher scores than students in 7 countries.22 Levels of mathematics achievement, both in the U.S. and internationally, will help measure the extent to which these goals are being met.

In order to monitor progress in the mathematics achievement of U.S. students, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has conducted national assessments of the mathematics performance of 9-, 13-, and 17-year-olds. There are five levels of mathematics proficiency reported by NAEP, ranging from Level 150 (understanding simple arithmetic facts) to Level 350 (multistep problem solving and algebra).23 The following tables (Tables EA 2.2.A, EA 2.2.B, and EA 2.2.C) report the average mathematics proficiency scores of students in the three age groups between 1973 and 1994.

Trends in Mathematics Proficiency Levels. Among 9-year-olds, average mathematics proficiency scores remained the same between 1973 and 1982, and then increased substantially to 231.1 in 1994 (see Table EA 2.2.A). Among 13-year-olds, mathematics proficiency scores increased between 1978 (264.1) and 1994 (274.3) (see Table EA 2.2.B). Among 17-year-olds, average proficiency scores declined between 1973 and 1982, after which they increased to a level similar to 1973 in 1994 (see Table EA 2.2.C).

Differences by Gender. Average mathematics proficiency scores among males and females were virtually identical among 9-year-old students in 1994. In 1994, mathematics proficiency scores were higher for males among 13-year-olds (by an average of 3.3 points) and 17 year olds (by an average of 4.4 points).

Differences by Race and Ethnicity.24 There are consistently large differences in mathematics proficiency by race and ethnicity. For example, among 17-year-olds in 1994, blacks and Hispanics had lower proficiency scores (285.5 and 290.8) than whites (312.3) (see Table EA 2.2.C). However, black and Hispanic 17-year-olds had substantial gains in achievement between 1973 and 1994 (see Figure EA 2.2).

Differences by Parents Education. There are large variations in average mathematics proficiency levels by parental education for 13- and 17-year-olds (see Tables EA 2.2.B and EA 2.2.C).25 For example, in 1994, 13-year-olds whose parents did not have a high school education had the lowest average proficiency scores (254.5), while those whose parents had graduated from college had the highest scores (284.9) (see Table EA 2.2.B).

Differences by School Type. Average mathematics proficiency scores among students in public schools have been consistently lower than average scores among students in non-public schools. This is true for every age group and every year reported.
 

Figure EA 2.2  
Mathematics Proficiency Age 17, Average Proficiency of Students, by Race/Ethnicity: 1973-1994  

EA2_2.GIF

Note: The mathematics proficiency scale ranges from 0 to 500.
Level 150: Simple arithmetic facts
Level 200: Beginning skills and understandings
Level 250: Numerical operations and beginning problem solving
Level 300: Moderately complex procedures and reasoning
Level 350: Multi-step problem solving and algebra

Source: U. S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 1994 Trends in Academic Progress.
 

Table EA 2.2.A 
Mathematics Proficiency Age 9, Average Proficiency of Students, by Gender, Race/Ethnicity, and Type of School: 1973-1994
 

 
 
 
 
1973 
1978 
1982 
1986 
1990 
1992 
1994 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Total
219 
218.6 
219 
221.7 
229.6 
229.6 
231.1 
 
Gender
 
 
Male
218 
217.4 
217.1 
221.7 
229.1 
230.8 
232.2 
 
 
Female
220 
219.9 
220.8 
221.7 
230.2 
228.4 
230 
 
Race/Ethnicity
 
 
White, non-Hispanic
225 
224.1 
224 
226.9 
235.2 
235.1 
236.8 
 
 
Black, non-Hispanic
190 
192.4 
194.9 
201.6 
208.4 
208 
212.1 
 
 
Hispanic
202 
202.9 
204 
205.4 
213.8 
211.9 
209.9 
 
Type of School
 
 
Public
 
217.2 
217 
220.1 
228.6 
227.7 
229.3 
 
 
Non-Public
 
230.5 
231.8 
230 
238.1 
241.5 
244.5 
 
Note: The mathematics proficiency scale ranges from 0 to 500:
  Level 150: Simple arithmetic facts  
  
Level 300: Moderately complex procedures and reasoning   
  Level 200: Beginning skills and understandings
  
  
Level 350: Multi-step problem solving and algebra 
  
  Level 250: Numerical operations and beginning problem solving
  
  
 
  
 
Source: U. S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP),  
1994 Trends in Academic Progress.

 
 

Table EA 2.2.B 
Mathematics Proficiency Age 13, Average Proficiency of Students, by Gender, Race/Ethnicity, Parents Education, and Type of School: 1973-1994 

 
     
1973 
1978 
1982 
1986 
1990 
1992 
1994 
     
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Total
266 
264.1 
268.6 
269 
270.4 
273.1 
274.3 
 
Gender
 
 
Male
265 
263.6 
269.2 
270 
271.2 
274.1 
276 
 
 
Female
267 
264.7 
268 
267.9 
269.6 
272 
272.7 
 
Race/Ethnicity 
 
 
White, non-Hispanic
274 
271.6 
274.4 
273.6 
276.3 
278.9 
280.8 
 
 
Black, non Hispanic
228 
229.6 
240.4 
249.2 
249.1 
250.2 
251.5 
 
 
Hispanic
239 
238 
252.4 
254.3 
254.6 
259.3 
256 
 
Parents Education
 
 
Less than high school
 
244.7 
251 
252.3 
253.4 
255.5 
254.5 
 
 
Graduated high school
 
263.1 
262.9 
262.7 
262.6 
263.2 
265.7 
 
 
Some education after HS
 
273.1 
275.1 
273.7 
277.1 
277.6 
277.3 
 
 
Graduated college
 
283.8 
282.3 
279.9 
280.4 
282.8 
284.9 
 
Type of School
 
 
Public
 
262.6 
267.1 
268.7 
269.3 
271.7 
273 
 
 
Non-Public
 
279.2 
281.1 
275.7 
279.9 
283.3 
284.6 
 
Note: The mathematics proficiency scale ranges from 0 to 500:
  
Level 150: Simple arithmetic facts  
  
Level 300: Moderately complex procedures and reasoning 
  
  
Level 200: Beginning skills and understandings
  
  
Level 350: Multi-step problem solving and algebra
  
  
Level 250: Numerical operations and beginning problem solving  
 
Source: U. S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP),  
1994 Trends in Academic Progress.

 
 

Table EA 2.2.C 
Mathematics Proficiency Age 17, Average Proficiency of Students, by Gender, Race/Ethnicity, Parents Education, and Type of School: 1973-1994 

 
     
1973 
1978 
1982 
1986 
1990 
1992 
1994 
     
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Total
304 
300.4 
298.5 
302 
304.6 
306.7 
306.2 
 
Gender
 
 
Male
309 
303.8 
301.5 
304.7 
306.3 
308.9 
308.5 
 
 
Female
301 
297.1 
295.6 
299.4 
302.9 
304.5 
304.1 
 
Race/Ethnicity
 
 
White, non-Hispanic
310 
305.9 
303.7 
307.5 
309.5 
311.9 
312.3 
 
 
Black, non Hispanic
270 
268.4 
271.8 
278.6 
288.5 
285.8 
285.5 
 
 
Hispanic
277 
276.3 
276.7 
283.1 
283.5 
292.2 
290.8 
 
Parents Education
 
 
Less than high school
 
279.6 
279.3 
279.3 
285.4 
285.5 
283.7 
 
 
Graduated high school
 
293.9 
293.4 
293.1 
293.7 
297.6 
295.3 
 
 
Some education after HS
 
305.3 
303.9 
305.2 
307.7 
307.5 
305 
 
 
Graduated college
 
316.8 
312.4 
313.9 
316.2 
315.9 
317.6 
 
Type of School
 
 
Public
 
299.6 
297.3 
301.2 
303.5 
305.3 
304.4 
 
 
Non-Public
 
314.3 
311.4 
320.1 
317.7 
320.4 
319.4 
 
Note: The mathematics proficiency scale ranges from 0 to 500:
  
Level 150: Simple arithmetic facts  
  
Level 300: Moderately complex procedures and reasoning 
  
  
Level 200: Beginning skills and understandings
  
  
Level 350: Multi-step problem solving and algebra 
  
  
Level 250: Numerical operations and beginning problem solving
  
  
 
  
 
Source: U. S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 1994 Trends in Academic Progress.

 

21 National Center for Education Statistics. (1994). NAEP 1992 Trends in Academic Progress. No. 23-TR01.

22 U.S. Department of Education. National Center for Education Statistics, Pursuing Excellence, No. 97-198. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

23 NAEP has regularly been conducting assessments of U.S. students in public and private schools in order to monitor trends in academic achievement in core curriculum areas since the 1970s. NAEP uses proficiency scales that range from 0 to 500. To give meaning to the results, students performance is characterized at five levels along the proficiency scales (150, 200, 250, 300, 350).

24 Estimates for whites and blacks exculde Hispanics of those races.

25 Parents education is not reported at age 9 because approximately a third of these students did not know their parents education level.
 

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