Mathematics Benchmarking Report TIMSS 1999–Eighth Grade
Chapter 5 Contents






© 2001 International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA)







CHAPTER 5: The Mathematics Curriculum

The first part of Chapter 5 presents information about the curricular goals in the TIMSS 1999 countries and Benchmarking states, districts, and consortia. The ways in which the curriculum is supported and monitored within each entity, and the relationship between the curriculum and system-wide testing, are examined. The second part of the chapter contains teachers’ reports about the mathematics topics actually studied in their classrooms.


In comparing achievement across systems, it is important to consider differences in students’ curricular experiences and how they may affect the mathematics they have studied. At the most fundamental level, students’ opportunity to learn the content, skills, and processes tested in the TIMSS 1999 assessment depends to a great extent on the curricular goals and intentions inherent in each system’s policies for mathematics education. Just as important as what students are expected to learn, however, is what their teachers choose to teach them, which ultimately determines the mathematics students are taught.

Teachers’ instructional programs are usually guided by an “official curriculum” that describes the mathematics education that should be provided. The official curriculum can be communicated by documents or statements of various sorts (often called guides, guidelines, standards, or frameworks) prepared by the education ministry or by national or regional education departments. These documents, together with supporting material such as instructional guides or mandated textbooks, are referred to as the intended curriculum.

To collect information about the intended mathematics curriculum at the eighth grade, the coordinators in each participating country and Benchmarking jurisdiction responsible for implementing the study completed questionnaires and participated in interviews. Information was gathered about factors related to supporting and monitoring the implementation of the official curriculum, including instructional materials, audits, and assessments aligned with the curriculum.

In many cases, teachers need to interpret and modify the intended curriculum according to their perceptions of the needs and abilities of their classes, and this evolves into the implemented curriculum. Research has shown that, even in highly regulated education systems, this is not identical to the intended curriculum. Furthermore, what is actually implemented is often inconsistent across an education system. Studies, including the Second International Mathematics Study, suggest that the implemented curriculum in the United States varies considerably from classroom to classroom – calling for more research into not only what is intended to be taught but what content is covered.(1) To collect data about the implemented curriculum, the mathematics teachers of the students tested in TIMSS 1999 completed questionnaires about whether students had been taught the various mathematics topics covered in the test.

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1 Mayer, D.P., Mullens, J.E., and Moore, M.T. (2000), Monitoring School Quality: An Indicators Report, NCES 2001-030, Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.

9 Schmidt, W.H., McKnight, C.C., and Raizen, S.A. (1997), A Splintered Vision: An Investigation of U.S. Science and Mathematics Education, Dordrecht, the Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

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TIMSS 1999 is a project of the International Study Center
Boston College, Lynch School of Education