Findings from the TIMSS 2019 Problem Solving and Inquiry Tasks

Ina V.S. Mullis, Michael O. Martin, Bethany Fishbein, Pierre Foy, and Sebastian Moncaleano

Chapter 1: Mathematics Grade 4

School Party

Screen 2 – Ticket Price

It is good practice to begin sets of assessment items with problems accessible to students so they can gain confidence in their ability to continue. Because the PSIs typically have a series of related problems, it is even more important for students not to “become lost” during the first part of the PSI. Most of the fourth grade students, 91 percent, engaged with 2A of the School Party task, which was a relatively straightforward multiplication problem. Students were asked to determine the amount of money the previous year’s school party had raised by selling 400 tickets that cost 6.00 zeds for each ticket, with the correct answer 2400 or equivalent. (A zed is one unit of the fictitious currency used since 1995 in TIMSS items involving money to provide the same level of difficulty across countries.)

For all the items with numerical answers, students at both grades entered their responses into the green boxes using the TIMSS number pad (shown below).

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Maximum Score Points: 1
Content Domain: Number
Topic Area: Whole Numbers
Cognitive Domain: Applying

Results 2A

The results for 2A are shown in Exhibit 5, which has the percent of correct responses given by students in each of the eTIMSS countries from highest to lowest. Led by Hong Kong SAR, more than half the students (55 to 79%) in 7 countries provided the correct answer. However, the average across the 30 eTIMSS countries was 42 percent. TIMSS has shown that fourth grade students sometimes find computation with money difficult because of the decimals, and further analysis of the incorrect responses revealed that 9 percent answered 24, 240, 24000, or 240000. Also, 9 percent on average across countries, often Nordic or European countries, omitted this item. However, no other patterns appeared from searching through the remaining incorrect responses. There were a few students entering 4 or 6 or both (e.g., 406) into the number pad, but it is difficult to interpret whether they were trying to add to solve the problem, perhaps trying to use the number pad as a calculator, or just did not understand what was being assessed. Across the participating countries, on average, boys had a higher percent of correct responses than girls.

Item 2B

2B asked students to consider how much more revenue would be provided if the ticket price was raised to 6.50 zeds. However, students did not need to calculate the actual answer. Instead, to assess the “prealgebra” topic in the number content area in the TIMSS 2019 Mathematics Framework, fourth grade students were given five expressions and asked to identify which two showed a way to calculate the answer.

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Maximum Score Points: 2
Content Domain: Number
Topic Area: Expressions, Simple Equations, and Relationships
Cognitive Domain: Applying

Results 2B

Exhibit 6 shows the percentages of correct responses given by students in each of the eTIMSS countries from highest to lowest. Except in Singapore, less than half the students were able to identify both (full credit) or one (partial credit) of the ways to calculate the answer. Across countries, 30 percent on average received at least partial credit. The Singaporean fourth grade students posted the highest percent of fully correct responses—35 percent. In the remaining countries, 26 percent or less selected both of the two correct expressions. Another 16 percent of the students, on average, were able to identify one of the correct expressions. As might be anticipated, more students (11%) recognized (400 × 6.50) – (400 × 6.00) as correct but not 400 × (6.50 – 6.00), than vice versa, with very few (5%) recognizing the simplification. There was little difference in achievement between girls and boys.