ERO report: Keeping children engaged and achieving in mathematics

Media release –

ERO report: Keeping children engaged and achieving in mathematics

The Education Review Office (ERO) has today released a report aimed at improving achievement in mathematics for children in New Zealand, in the upper primary school years and beyond. 

“The reason we focused on mathematics in the upper primary school is, while numeracy and mathematics are critical foundation skills for many jobs now and in the future, student achievement levels in mathematics for children in those year levels have been dropping alarmingly for some time,” said Chief Review Officer, Nicholas Pole.

There is a fall off between Years 4 and 8 in achievement and in children’s confidence in their ability to do mathematics.  

“This is a really worrying trend, as seen in international reports (see editor’s note), which school leaders and teachers must try to reverse. It has implications for New Zealand’s economic future, as well as for students’ individual academic success,” said Mr Pole.

ERO’s report Keeping children engaged and achieving in mathematics is one of a series aiming to inspire school leader and teachers to adapt the successful teaching strategies and approaches reported on, to their own contexts.

It features strategies and approaches observed in exemplary practice we identified in schools from across the country.

“Many of the schools we visited had successfully identified the children who needed additional support in mathematics. What made the difference in the schools that had succeeded in accelerating achievement was that they made a conscious effort to raise teacher capability with intensive professional development.

“These schools moved from an intervention model aimed at ‘fixing the children’ to a collaborative model where teaching professionals assumed collective responsibility for improving teaching, thereby reducing the need for future interventions. They refused to accept that so many children were simply not good at mathematics.

“For many of the schools the most fundamental change was moving away from streaming to implementing teaching strategies appropriate for every learner within mixed ability classrooms,” said Mr Pole.

Strategies and approaches that ERO found contributed to positive achievement trajectories for students are detailed in the report, which is available at:

Editor’s note:

Recent National Monitoring Study of Student Achievement (NMSSA) reports have found that many more Year 4 than Year 8 students are achieving at the expected curriculum level. The most recent NMSSA mathematics and statistics report, found that while 81 percent of Year 4 students were performing at Level 2 as expected, only 41 percent of Year 8 students were performing at the expected Level 4. The report also found that Year 8 students were less positive about mathematics than Year 4 students. 

These concerns, based on primary school data, are reinforced by Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) testing of high school students. PISA reports that New Zealand is one of very few countries in which the mathematics and science achievement of 15-year-olds is on a trajectory of accelerated decline.

Further, PISA data show that within the same school young people can experience widely divergent opportunities to learn. This within-school disparity, one of the highest in the participating countries, means that within-school variation in student achievement is very large compared with that of countries in a similar position on the table.

For further information contact: ERO Communications Manager, Amanda Forsey on 021 459 472