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 5 – Prices of Pizza

Screen 5 was devoted to deciding what size pizzas to order for the party. The primary stimulus only gave the directive to fill in the number of pizzas needed to serve 400 people for large and extra large pizzas and that the costs would be calculated for them.

Students needed to understand that the data about the prices of the pizzas were presented in order by the size of the pizzas from smallest to largest. In addition, they needed to comprehend 1) the number of people served by the small and the medium pizzas, 2) the number of each size needed for 400 people, and 3) the total cost of each size. Beyond that they needed to understand that in lieu of directions, the data for the smaller sizes provided examples of how the students themselves should respond for the two larger sizes. Finally, after all that, it may have been difficult to accept that supplying the answers to the number of people served by each of two larger sizes of pizzas fulfilled the requirements for completing the item. How often does a mathematics test automatically calculate the total cost?

If the fourth grade students managed the reading, they only needed to perform two calculations or do some reasoning to provide 1) the number of large pizzas that would be needed to serve 400 people (400 ÷ 5 = 80) and 2) the number of extra large pizzas that would be needed to serve 400 people (400 ÷ 8 = 50).

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Maximum Score Points: 2
Content Domain: Number
Topic Area: Whole Numbers
Cognitive Domain: Applying


Exhibit 9 shows the results for Screen 5. It appears that if students understood the type of information they were asked to supply, they were able to answer the number of both sizes of pizza correctly. Unfortunately, however, the majority of students had difficulty. Less than half the fourth grade students in any of the eTIMSS countries answered both questions correctly for full credit (2 points). High-achieving Singapore and Hong Kong SAR managed 44 and 40 percent, respectively. Very few students, 2 to 4 percent on average, answered one but not both of the two sizes correctly. Boys had higher achievement than girls on average across countries.

5B did not yield meaningful results. The chances of having sensible data about total costs to arrange depended on providing correct answers in 5A. Thus, as a consequence of students’ low rates of success on 5A, few students had reasonable data to arrange. Across the countries, 25 percent of the students on average skipped 5B entirely.

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Maximum Score Points: Excluded from Scaling and Analysis
Content Domain: Number
Topic Area: Whole Numbers
Cognitive Domain: Knowing