TIMSS Physics Item H09

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Question H09 on the 12th Grade TIMSS Math test given to 12th graders around the world in 1995 reveals an astounding difference in physics comprehension between the sexes in all the countries who participated.  Since this was not a multiple choice question, the scores don't need to be adjusted for correct guesses, but they do need to be adjusted for the 3% error.  Where 22.7% of American boys correctly answered the question, only 19.7% are known to have understood the problem, and where 14.5% of American girls correctly answered it, only 11.5% are known to have understood the problem. Thus 1.7 times as many American boys as American girls were able to demonstrate that they understood the problem.

After adjustment for the 3% error, 60.6% of Australian boys are known to have understood the problem, which per capita is three times as many as American boys and more than 5 times as many as American girls.

There was a direct correlation between boys' scores and sex differences.  The percentage of boys who understood the problem increased 2% for each 1% increase in the "gender gap" [read: the difference between the sexes].  The biggest "gender gap" was in Australia (33.4%), and the highest scoring boys were Australian boys (63.6%).  The smallest gender gap was in Greece (3%), and the lowest scoring boys were Greek boys (only 6.8% correctly answered the question).

Did Greek girls benefit from this narrowing of the "gender gap"?  No, they were the lowest scoring girls, with only 3.8% answering correctly,  just above the 3% error.  Did Australian girls get shortchanged by the failure of Australia to narrow the "gender gap"?   No, they were the highest scoring girls, at 30.2%, almost as high as the international average for boys, and higher than American boys.

While the US had one of the narrowest "gender gaps" at 8.2%, we also had some of the lowest scoring boys, with only French and Greek boys scoring lower.  The boys in all other 15 countries who administered this question scored considerably higher than American boys.

 THIRD INTERNATIONAL MATHEMATICS AND SCIENCE STUDY - 1995 ASSESSMENT May 13, 1998 56 Percent of responses by Physics Item Categories - Final Year of Secondary School Item: H09 KEY: B REFRACTION AND VELOCITY OF BLUE LIGHT (Wave Phenomena) Difficulty: 747 COUNTRY N A B C D E OTHER INCOR RECT DIFF INVALID NOT REACHED OMIT 1. GIRL% Right 2. BOY% Right Australia 175 6.8 50.6 17.8 9.2 15.7 0 50.6 0 0 0 30.2 63.6 Austria 202 6.9 13.6 10.6 10.2 57 1.7 13.6 0.5 0.6 0.7 7.6 22.1 Canada 648 12 28.8 15.9 11.6 31.2 0.5 28.8 0.1 0 0.4 23.1 34.5 Cyprus 100 6.9 42.2 8.2 9.9 30.8 2 42.2 0 1 1 26.6 52.5 Czech Republic 274 6.9 19.4 15.8 6.4 50.9 0.7 19.4 0.7 0 0 7.8 36.4 Denmark 178 3 27.4 21.4 6.8 36 5.4 27.4 1.1 0.5 3.7 17.2 29.7 France 280 3.5 14.6 16.6 9.3 55 1 14.6 0.2 0.1 0.7 14 15.6 Germany 186 9.7 20.1 11.2 14.3 42 2.7 20.1 0 0 2.7 9.2 24.5 Greece 113 2.2 5.8 8.6 15.4 65.2 2.9 5.8 0 0.6 2.3 3.8 6.8 Hungary . . . . . . . . . . . . . Iceland . . . . . . . . . . . . . Israel 187 5.9 32.6 14.4 15.5 29.4 2.1 32.6 0 0 2.1 27.3 34.2 Italy 40 3.8 15.5 8.2 12.6 60 0 15.5 0 0 0 9.6 21.3 Latvia (LSS) 239 5.5 35.4 19.8 6.8 28.1 4.4 35.4 0 0 4.4 28.5 41.9 Lithuania . . . . . . . . . . . . . Netherlands . . . . . . . . . . . . . New Zealand . . . . . . . . . . . . . Norway 342 5.3 21.7 8.4 43.2 21.4 0 21.7 0 0 0 7.6 27 Russian Federation 331 6.2 30.4 12.3 7.1 42.7 1.3 30.4 0 0 1.3 21.3 37 Slovenia 161 7.4 31.8 20.1 17.6 22.9 0.3 31.8 0 0 0.3 18 33.5 South Africa . . . . . . . . . . . . . Sweden 238 2.8 40.2 18.6 9.9 28.6 0 40.2 0 0 0 28.4 46.7 Switzerland 350 5.6 15.9 20 12.5 43.8 2.3 15.9 1 0 1.2 8.8 24.7 United States 903 11.2 18.9 19.1 10.2 40.5 0.1 18.9 0 0 0.1 14.5 22.7 INTERNATIONAL AVG . 6.2 25.8 14.8 12.7 39 1.5 25.8 0.2 0.2 1.2 16.9 31.9