In this paper, I provide an overview of the recent evolution of Portuguese students’ results in elementary and middle school mathematics. I highlight the reforms slowly introduced from 2003 to 2015, and their results. These reforms were pragmatic and made in response to the poor results obtained by Portuguese students in the early TIMSS and PISA studies and got a significant and deliberate boost in 2011, when the government invited experts from the Portuguese Mathematical Society to collaborate on new programs and standards. Results from both PISA and TIMSS after the application of the new standards showed a significant improvement, with 4th grade Portuguese students passing their counterparts from traditionally better performing countries, such as Finland. Subsequent abolition of the new standards and other reforms of the period led to a significant backslide of the educational panorama. However, only now the news of Portuguese successes is spreading, and we must look at what has determined the advances and regressions. In order to understand what leads to good education results, we need to look at what a country did, and not at what it is doing now.
Cite this article
Nuno Crato, Math curriculum matters: Statistical evidence and the Portuguese experience. Eur. Math. Soc. Mag. 124 (2022), pp. 49–56DOI 10.4171/MAG/83