Intra-Cohort Growth in the Inequality of Mathematics Performance: Taiwan, the U.S. and the state of Massachusetts from an International Perspective 


Huang Min-Hsiung, Academia Sinica

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Abstract: As students in Taiwan progress from elementary to junior high school, a remarkable increase in the inequality of student achievement in mathematics has been observed, at a level significantly higher than that seen in other countries. This study investigates the widening-gap phenomenon in Taiwan with respect to (a) its presence in different studies; (b) its magnitude and pattern; (c) its coverage of students in different birth cohorts; and (d) its relevance to initial achievement levels, family background, gender, the rural-urban gap, as well as between- and within-classroom differences. Findings show that the widening-gap phenomenon occurring before Grade 9 accompanied a significant increase in average performance. High-achievers in mathematics generally learned faster than low-achievers over time. The widening-gap phenomenon in Taiwan was commonly seen in students of different birth cohorts, gender, and residential areas, and it occurred mainly within classrooms. Taiwanese students with more favorable family backgrounds improved more significantly in mathematics over time, and they displayed a less significant widening-gap phenomenon amongst themselves.

Key words: widening-gap phenomenon, Matthew effect, mathematics performance, performance inequality, TIMSS, TEPS, Taiwan

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