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Stanford Study: American Math Achievement Trails Most Industrialized Nations

November 15, 2010

In the first-ever international comparison of advanced math skills, a team of Stanford and Munich researchers found that American students rank 31st in the world, falling behind those in most industrialized nations, says the Contra Costa Times.

  • Only 6 percent of U.S. eighth-graders perform at the advanced level in math, compared with 28 percent of Taiwanese students and more than 20 percent of students in Hong Kong, Finland and South Korea.
  • The scores of American students match those of students from Lithuania, Spain and Italy.

The study analyzed scores of 15 year olds in 56 nations on a 2005 test called the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which includes questions on algebra, logic and basic computation.

  • The percentage of students scoring at the advanced level varies across the 50 states.
  • Students from Massachusetts do best, ranking similar to German and French students.
  • They are followed by students from Minnesota, Vermont, New Jersey, Washington and Virginia.

The United States has a very heterogeneous population, which has been blamed on lowering academic performance, so the researchers also examined two U.S. subgroups conventionally thought to be well-prepared for school: white students and students from college-educated families, says the Times.

  • White American students were outscored by students from 24 other nations.
  • Even children of college-educated parents don't measure up particularly well.
  • When compared with all students in the other countries, this advantaged segment of the U.S. population was outranked by students in 16 other countries.

Source: Lisa M. Krieger, "Stanford Study: American Math Achievement Trails Most Industrialized Nations," Contra Costa Times, November 10, 2010.

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