Smaller class size may not improve math scores

August 09, 1999

Chicago -- In nine countries around the world, larger classes are associated with better math scores among eighth graders. Only in the U.S. do small classes perform slightly better in math, according to a Penn State researcher.

"The perception in the U.S. is that small classes are better," says Dr. Suet-ling Pong, associate professor of education and sociology. "There is some evidence, in previous studies, that small classes for K-3 are beneficial. For eighth-grade math classes, we found that small is marginally better in the U.S., but we do not know why this differs from other countries."

Pong and Dr. Aaron Pallas of Michigan State University looked at the data for eighth graders in the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). They looked at 10 countries including Australia, Flemish Belgium, Canada, Germany, France, Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore, Iceland and the United States to see if small classes were associated with higher math achievement in eighth graders.

"We found some support for smaller eighth-grade math classes in the U.S.," Pong told attendees today (Aug. 9) at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in Chicago.

Math students in the United States in classes of 6 to 18 students do better than those in classes of 19 to 29. This finding occurs after adjusting for the average socioeconomic status of the students in the same classroom.

"While this is tentative support for reducing class size to promote higher math achievement, the effect is very small," says Pong. "When we look at other countries we do not find the same results."

In Australia, Flemish Belgium, and France, large classes do significantly better than small ones even after taking socioeconomic status into account. In Canada, Germany, Iceland, Korea and Singapore, class size does not matter. Because data on students' social backgrounds is not available for England or Japan, these countries were not included in the study.

Pong's research was supported by the American Educational Research Association grants program, which receives funds from the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Education.

"Our international study is at the preliminary stage. More research needs to be done to determine why the U.S. is the only country out of the 10 we examined where small classes do better in math," says Pong.
-end-
EDITORS: Dr. Pong is at 814-863-3770 or sxp21@psu.edu by email.

Penn State

Related Math Articles from Brightsurf:

Smokers good at math are more likely to want to quit
For smokers who are better at math, the decision to quit just adds up, a new study suggests.

Not a 'math person'? You may be better at learning to code than you think
New research from the University of Washington finds that a natural aptitude for learning languages is a stronger predictor of learning to program than basic math knowledge.

Speak math, not code
Writing algorithms in mathematics rather than code is not only more elegant but also more efficient, says 2013 Turing Award winner Leslie Lamport.

Math that feels good
Mathematics and science Braille textbooks are expensive and require an enormous effort to produce -- until now.

Using math to blend musical notes seamlessly
MIT researchers have invented an algorithm that produces a real-time portamento effect, gliding a note at one pitch into a note of another pitch, between any two audio signals, such as a piano note gliding into a human voice.

Novel math could bring machine learning to the next level
In recent years, a theory called 'Topological Data Analysis,' stemmed from a branch of Mathematics so abstract that it did not seem to have any application whatsoever in the real world, has been making computers much better at recognizing meaningful structure inside all kinds of large datasets (a.k.a.

Study shows we like our math like we like our art: Beautiful
A beautiful landscape painting, a beautiful piano sonata -- art and music are almost exclusively described in terms of aesthetics, but what about math?

Phase transitions: The math behind the music
Physics Professor Jesse Berezovsky contends that until now, much of the thinking about math and music has been a top-down approach, applying mathematical ideas to existing musical compositions as a way of understanding already existing music.

IQ a better predictor of adult economic success than math
IQ in childhood is a better indicator of adult wealth than math for very preterm and very low-weight babies, according to a new study in PLOS ONE.

Math + good posture = better scores
A San Francisco State University study finding that students perform better at math while sitting with good posture could have implications for other kinds of performance under pressure.

Read More: Math News and Math Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.