There were well-defined cluster groups, with some presenting excellence
in mathematics (i.e., succeeding in the mathematics taught in the
New Zealand Curriculum), and some having difficulties (not able
to do the majority of the NEMP mathematics tasks).
• Most of the students in poorly performing cluster groups
showed a good level of performance on number facts and a moderate
level of performance on algorithms (subtraction being an exception).
However, in problem-solving tasks involving more than procedural
knowledge these students performed very poorly.
For particular types of tasks, students were often located in well-defined
cluster groups characterised by particular mathematical misunderstandings
and difficulties. For example, there were three separate groups
of students identifiable by their particular difficulties with placement
of fractions, decimals or percentages.
• Amongst students in poorly performing clusters there was
an impoverished ‘drill and practice’ understanding of
what mathematics education entails. These students ‘asked
a teacher first’, and they placed a higher emphasis on the
knowing of mathematical facts and on doing teacher-set worksheets
or working in their books.
Ethnicity and school decile influenced the development of competence
in school mathematics. Mäori students and/or students in low-decile
schools were very over-represented in poorly performing cluster