Student Misconceptions and Errors in Physics and Mathematics: Exploring Data from TIMSS and TIMSS Advanced

Student Misconceptions and Errors in Physics and Mathematics: Exploring Data from TIMSS and TIMSS Advanced

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This open access report explores the nature and extent of students’ misconceptions and misunderstandings related to core concepts in physics and mathematics and physics across grades four, eight and 12. Twenty years of data from the IEA’s Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and TIMSS Advanced assessments are analyzed, specifically for five countries (Italy, Norway, Russian Federation, Slovenia, and the United States) who participated in all or almost all TIMSS and TIMSS Advanced assessments between 1995 and 2015.

The report focuses on students’ understandings related to gravitational force in physics and linear equations in mathematics. It identifies some specific misconceptions, errors, and misunderstandings demonstrated by the TIMSS Advanced grade 12 students for these core concepts, and shows how these can be traced back to poor foundational development of these concepts in earlier grades. Patterns in misconceptions and misunderstandings are reported by grade, country, and gender. In addition, specific misconceptions and misunderstandings are tracked over time, using trend items administered in multiple assessment cycles.The study and associated methodology may enable education systems to help identify specific needs in the curriculum, improve inform instruction across grades and also raise possibilities for future TIMSS assessment design and reporting that may provide more diagnostic outcomes.

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  • assessment
  • Comparative education
  • Core concepts in mathematics and physics
  • Curriculum improvement
  • Education
  • Examinations & assessment
  • Foundational development of core concepts
  • IEA
  • Improving teaching and learning
  • International Education
  • Item-level performance data
  • Large-scale assessments in science and mathematics
  • Large-scale studies in education
  • Mathematics
  • Mathematics & science
  • Mathematics misunderstandings
  • open access
  • Organization & management of education
  • Patterns in misconceptions, errors, and misunderstandings
  • Physics
  • science education
  • Science misunderstandings
  • Society & Social Sciences
  • STEM Education
  • student performance
  • Teaching of a specific subject
  • thema EDItEUR::J Society and Social Sciences::JN Education
  • thema EDItEUR::J Society and Social Sciences::JN Education::JND Educational systems and structures::JNDH Education: examinations and assessment
  • thema EDItEUR::J Society and Social Sciences::JN Education::JNU Teaching of a specific subject
  • thema EDItEUR::P Mathematics and Science::PB Mathematics
  • thema EDItEUR::P Mathematics and Science::PH Physics


DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-30188-0


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