National rank on international assessments, as measured in Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), gives a limited view of the data presented. This study used average scale score data from the TIMSS (1995, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011) that were then disaggregated based on content domains (i.e., number, algebra, measurement, geometry, data, earth science, life science, physical science, biology, physics, and chemistry). These data were graphed to show the growth of the U.S. national average scale scores in comparison to three top scoring countries (i.e., Hong Kong, Japan, and Singapore), and three other post-industrial countries similar to the U.S. (i.e., England, Italy, and Australia) It was found that the eastern nations outperformed the western nations on science math question for the fourth and eighth grade. The gap between eastern and western nations grew from the fourth to eighth grades. For fourth- and eighth-grade science content domains, Singapore outperformed all other nations except in earth science where all nations were evenly matched. Additionally, percent correct statistics from the 2011 TIMSS Released Items were disaggregated based on subject (i.e., science and mathematics) and cognitive domain (i.e., knowing, applying, and reasoning). The released item scores, based on cognitive domain, were then averaged and the U.S. averages were compared with the averages of the above mentioned nations, using a series of t-tests. Singapore scored significantly higher in all categories except fourth-grade science cognitive domains knowing and applying. Hong Kong scored significantly higher in fourth- and eighth-grade mathematics cognitive domains knowing and applying and eighth-grade mathematics cognitive domain reasoning. Japan scored significantly higher in eighth-grade mathematics cognitive domains applying and reasoning as well as science cognitive domain applying. These findings suggest that the U.S. is lagging behind in some content domains and cognitive domains, but not all. The current study informs teachers, administrators, and policy makers of the specifics areas the U.S. needs improvement.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Teacher Education



Date Submitted


Document Type





TIMSS, 2011, 1995, 1999, 2003, 2007, rank, Singapore, U.S., international, assessment, content domain, cognitive domain, t-test, trend line