Education News

US Students Lag Peers In Other Countries In Math

Every three years high school students around the world take the same standardized test. It’s known as the PISA. Today the latest results are being released.

When it comes to math, U.S. students are behind their peers in other industrialized countries.

Jack Buckley with the National Center for Education Statistics gives an example of a basic math problem.

“This is a simple bar chart. Fifteen-year-olds were asked to look at these sales figures for four fictitious musical groups and then asked to pick which one month off that chart did one of these bands first outsell the other band.”

Less than 80 percent of U.S. students answered that basic question correctly. That’s lower than the average among industrialized countries.

The scores get worse as the math gets harder — like this problem.

“Students are asked to use the algebraic expression below to compute the drip rate of an intravenous drug. So they’re given this formula and the definition of units, and they need to manipulate the formula to compute the correct volume.”

Only 9 percent of U.S. students are considered proficient at this kind of higher level math.

Buckley says the U.S. math scores haven’t changed in the last three years.

But other countries like Poland have improved and even surpassed the United States.

“It’s hard to get excited about standing still while others around you are improving, so I don’t want to be too positive. You know, on the other hand, we’re only below average in one of the three subjects, so I think we have a respectable foundation on which to build.”

The other two subjects tested are reading and science.

In those areas U.S. students are considered average, joining the ranks of France and Portugal. 


Laura Isensee

Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for Houston Public Media, including K-12 and higher education. Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and contributed to South Florida’s NPR affiliate. Her work has also appeared in The Dallas Morning News, Reuters and Clarín in Argentina. Laura has won awards for...

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