
CHANGES IN MATHEMATICS ACHIEVEMENT BETWEEN
THE FIRST AND SECOND NEMP CYCLES
Gordon
Knight

The
period between the NEMP assessments of 1997 and 2001 saw significant
change in mathematics education—the new curriculum was becoming
more established, and a greater emphasis on numeracy skills was
being introduced. This summary describes changes across this time
in the mathematics achievement of Year 4 and Year 8 students.




Tasks common
to the two assessments were classified according to their curriculum content
using the asTTle Mathematics Content Framework. They were also classified
by the generic skills required for their completion, using the TIMSS performance
expectation classification. Changes across time were examined in relation
to these factors.



•
At Year 4, the news was all good. There were 25 task components
on which the gain in achievement was at least 6%, and only five
components on which there was a corresponding decrease in performance.
The gains outnumbered the losses in each of the content areas, achievement
objective levels, and performance expectations.
• At Year 8, the message was much more mixed. There were 10
task components on which there were gains of at least 6%, and 21
on which there was a corresponding decrease in performance. Gains
easily outnumbered losses in number and in algebra and statistics,
but in the combined results for measurement and geometry there were
20 losses and only one gain. Losses outnumbered gains at each of
the achievement objective levels, and there were no performance
expectations for which gains outnumbered the losses.
• Performance on problemsolving tasks appeared to be lower
in 2001 than in 1997.
• The changes in students’ attitude towards mathematics
between the two assessments were relatively small at both Year 4
and Year 8. 



The
study indicates areas of possible concern at Year 8. While the gains in
performance in the area of number were gratifying, these may have come
at the expense of achievement in measurement and geometry. Because these
changes, along with the change in problemsolving performance across the
two cycles, may reflect the increased emphasis on numeracy that was beginning
to take effect in 2001, teachers need to be aware of the dangers of placing
too much emphasis on this one aspect of the mathematics curriculum.



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