Ten-year-olds show world-class improvement in maths

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The Independent Online

England's 10-year-olds have shown a dramatic improvement in maths tests over the past decade. A worldwide study yesterday revealed they had shown the biggest improvement of any country since 1994.

England's 10-year-olds have shown a dramatic improvement in maths tests over the past decade. A worldwide study yesterday revealed they had shown the biggest improvement of any country since 1994.

Trends in International Mathematics and Study, recognised as the most respected international comparison, which started in 1995, tests 10- and 14-year-olds in maths and science every four years. In the 15 countries which have participated in all three tests, England's score in mathematics has improved the most, by 47 points, to place it 10th in the world in an international league table. The study is the first significant international evidence that the introduction of the Government's maths strategy for primary schools - giving all pupils an hour a day of numeracy - has had a major effect in raising standards.

But there is bad news: over the eight-year history of the project, by researchers at Boston University in the US, there has been no improvement in the standards of 14-year-olds. England languishes in 18th place out of 47, equal to Scotland.

With the maths strategy now six years old, many of the pupils to benefit from it are older than 14, so England's performance in the secondary school tests should also have started to improve.

The study, which checked the school results of 47 countries at 14 and 25 at 10, showed Pacific rim countries to be streets ahead in all four tables. Singapore was top, with the Republic of Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong all performing well across all four areas.

But in the science test for 10-year-olds, England was the top non-Asian country, and fifth in the rankings. In science tests for 10- and 14-year-olds (where England was seventh out of 47), British pupils showed a marked improvement in standards, solely down to improvements by girls. English pupils also outshone those in Scotland in science tests and the 10-year-olds' maths test. In the maths test for 14-year-olds both countries were equal.

An analysis of the study by the National Foundation for Educational Research in the UK showed the 14-year-old English pupils' biggest weakness in maths was number calculations, although they were stronger in data handling and geometry. In science, the 14-year-olds were weaker in chemistry, a subject in crisis with the closure of several university departments. They were stronger in chemistry, earth and environmental science.

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