Mathematics Benchmarking Report TIMSS 1999–Eighth Grade
Chapter 5 Contents



How Do Education Systems Deal with Individual Differences?





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




CHAPTER 5: The Mathematics Curriculum

How Do Education Systems Deal with Individual Differences?

The challenge of maximizing opportunity to learn for students with widely differing abilities and interests is met differently in different education systems. Exhibit 5.14 summarizes questionnaire and interview data on how selected comparison countries, as well as states, districts, and consortia, organized their curricula to deal with this issue.

Some participants indicated using more than one method of dealing with individual differences among students, and in these cases the category describing the main method was reported. In the United States, and in Canada, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, and Korea among the comparison countries, the same curriculum was intended for all students, but it was recommended that teachers adapt the level and scope of their teaching to the abilities and interests of their students. In the Czech Republic and England, the mathematics curriculum was taught at different levels to different groups, four in the Czech Republic and nine in England – so many because in England the levels are defined in terms of progressively more complex performance to be demonstrated. Another approach to differentiated provision was followed in Belgium (Flemish), the Netherlands, the Russian Federation, and Singapore, which assign different curricula to students of different levels of ability and interest. Two of the comparison countries, Italy and Japan, reported that their official mathematics curricula did not address the issue of differentiating instruction for eighth-grade students with different abilities or interests.

All of the Benchmarking states and most of the districts and consortia generally resembled the United States in that they provided the same curriculum for all, but expected teachers to adapt the level and scope of their teaching to their students’ needs. The First in the World Consortium and Miami-Dade provided the same curriculum to all, but at different levels for different groups, while Naperville provided a different curriculum to students of different abilities.

Schools’ reports on how they organize to accommodate students with different abilities or interests are shown in Exhibit R2.1 in the reference section. Compared with the international average, substantial percentages of students in many Benchmarking jurisdictions were in schools reporting that different classes study different content, including the states, districts and consortia reporting that their frameworks or standards were developed for all students with teachers adapting to students’ needs.


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