1996-3777 (online)
1990-8539 (print)
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A series of reports on the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment’s (PISA) periodic testing program on student performance. The reports generally compare student (15 year olds) academic performance across countries, or discuss the methodology used to gather the data.

Also available in French, German
Equations and Inequalities

Equations and Inequalities

Making Mathematics Accessible to All You or your institution have access to this content

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20 June 2016
9789264258495 (PDF) ; 9789264259348 (EPUB) ;9789264258488(print)

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More than ever, students need to engage with mathematical concepts, think quantitatively and analytically, and communicate using mathematics. All these skills are central to a young person’s preparedness to tackle problems that arise at work and in life beyond the classroom. But the reality is that many students are not familiar with basic mathematics concepts and, at school, only practice routine tasks that do not improve their ability to think quantitatively and solve real-life, complex problems.

How can we break this pattern? This report, based on results from PISA 2012, shows that one way forward is to ensure that all students spend more “engaged” time learning core mathematics concepts and solving challenging mathematics tasks. The opportunity to learn mathematics content – the time students spend learning mathematics topics and practising maths tasks at school – can accurately predict mathematics literacy. Differences in students’ familiarity with mathematics concepts explain a substantial share of performance disparities in PISA between socio-economically advantaged and disadvantaged students. Widening access to mathematics content can raise average levels of achievement and, at the same time, reduce inequalities in education and in society at large.

Also available in French
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  • Foreword

    PISA has long established that disadvantaged students tend to trail behind their privileged peers in their mathematics achievement – even if the achievement gap varies widely across countries. But that left open the question: to what extent can teachers and schools do something about this?

  • Executive Summary

    With numeracy skills needed more than ever in the work place, today’s students must be able to compute fluently, engage in logical reasoning and use mathematics to tackle novel problems. However, PISA 2012 results show that only a minority of 15-year-old students in most countries grasp and can work with core mathematics concepts. On average, less than 30% of students across OECD countries understand the concept of an arithmetic mean, while less than 50% of students can work with the concept of a polygon.

  • Reader's Guide
  • Why Access to Mathematics Matters and How it Can be Measured

    This chapter discusses the importance of mathematics knowledge for acquiring numeracy skills and developing problem-solving abilities. It presents the concept of "opportunity to learn" and argues that measuring opportunity to learn is of critical importance for international comparisons of curricula and student performance. An overview of the data on opportunity to learn in PISA 2012 shows that education systems differ greatly in the degree to which students are exposed to mathematics concepts and also in the way mathematics problems are formulated and presented to students.

  • Variations in Students' Exposure to and Familiarity with Mathematics

    Students’ exposure to mathematics varies within countries even more than between countries. This chapter first explores how access to mathematics content varies by socio-economic status and other student characteristics, such as gender, immigrant background and attendance at pre-primary school. It then analyses the extent to which school- and system-level factors – including student sorting and teaching resources and practices – can produce segregation in opportunities to learn mathematics based on students’ socio-economic status.

  • Exposure to Mathematics in School and Performance in PISA

    This chapter analyses how opportunity to learn mathematics influences students’ performance in PISA and their capacity to solve the most challenging PISA tasks. The results show that exposure to pure mathematics has a strong association with performance that tends to increase as the difficulty of mathematics problems increases. Socio-economically disadvantaged students, who have fewer opportunities to learn how to use symbolic language, acquire fluency in procedures and build mathematic models, lack some of the essential skills needed to solve mathematics problems.

  • Opportunity to Learn and Students' Attitudes Towards Mathematics

    This chapter explores the relationship between opportunity to learn and students’ attitudes towards mathematics, including their interest in mathematics, mathematics self-concept and anxiety towards mathematics. Teaching practices that have an impact on students’ self-concept towards mathematics, peer effects and parents’ influence on their child’s attitudes towards mathematics are also examined.

  • A Policy Strategy to Widen Opportunities to Learn Mathematics

    Only a minority of the 15-year-old students in most countries understand and know well the core mathematics concepts in the curriculum. This chapter discusses a policy strategy to give all students similar opportunities to learn mathematics. Policy makers, curriculum designers, teachers and parents have an important role to play in the implementation of this strategy.

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