Equations and Inequalities

Making Mathematics Accessible to All

More than ever, students need to engage with mathematical concepts, think quantitatively and analytically, and communicate using mathematics. All these skills are central to a young person’s preparedness to tackle problems that arise at work and in life beyond the classroom. But the reality is that many students are not familiar with basic mathematics concepts and, at school, only practice routine tasks that do not improve their ability to think quantitatively and solve real-life, complex problems. How can we break this pattern? This report, based on results from PISA 2012, shows that one way forward is to ensure that all students spend more “engaged” time learning core mathematics concepts and solving challenging mathematics tasks. The opportunity to learn mathematics content – the time students spend learning mathematics topics and practising maths tasks at school – can accurately predict mathematics literacy. Differences in students’ familiarity with mathematics concepts explain a substantial share of performance disparities in PISA between socio-economically advantaged and disadvantaged students. Widening access to mathematics content can raise average levels of achievement and, at the same time, reduce inequalities in education and in society at large.

Published on June 20, 2016Also available in: French, Korean

In series:PISAview more titles


Executive Summary
Reader's Guide
Why Access to Mathematics Matters and How it Can be Measured
Variations in Students' Exposure to and Familiarity with Mathematics
Exposure to Mathematics in School and Performance in PISA
Opportunity to Learn and Students' Attitudes Towards Mathematics
A Policy Strategy to Widen Opportunities to Learn Mathematics
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