Primary school maths knowledge is getting worse, study shows


A study by the University of Leuven shows a downward trend in a variety of mathematical fields among Flanders’ 12-year-olds, with girls doing worse than boys

Goals not reached

Understanding of maths is decreasing among Flanders’ 12-year-olds, according to a new study by experts at the University of Leuven at the request of the Flemish government.

In May last year, 5,421 pupils from 190 Flemish schools took 13 tests that examined their skills in various mathematical fields, like numbers and mathematical operations, and measuring and geometry. The study analysed whether students in the sixth year of primary school achieved the eindtermen, the final requirements for pupils to move on to secondary school.

The results show that pupils’ mathematical knowledge is decreasing, with the scores on almost all tests concerning numbers and mathematical operations lower. Just six out of 10 students achieved the required score on the test concerning solving problems through measuring and geometry.

Children with a lower socio-economic background and those who don’t speak Dutch at home had more difficulties reaching the goals. Those with more than 100 books at home performed better, while girls tended to score lower than boys.

Flemish education minister Hilde Crevits will request further analysis. “We cannot ignore this downward trend,” she said. By the end of the year, there should be specific recommendations to improve the mathematical knowledge in primary and secondary education.

This is the third time the eindtermen for maths in primary education have been examined, with previous studies in 2002 and 2009.

Photo: Ingimage