Investigating Large-Scale, High School Mathematics Achievement Through the Lens of the Cognitive Domains

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Lois George


A key component of student mathematics achievement relates to the cognitive domains. This paper examines student mathematics achievement in three cognitive domains (knowledge, comprehension, reasoning) as per different achievement grades, across four years (2015, 2016, 2018, 2019), and by gender. This study used the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) mathematics results across four years (2015, 2016, 2018, 2019) from the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC), which is the main public examination board in the Caribbean. The sample constituted 69,945 public school students from 161 secondary schools in Jamaica. The study found a regular pattern of cognitive domain performance at all grade levels and in each of the four years under consideration. Students performed best in the knowledge domain, followed by comprehension and then reasoning and the knowledge domain appeared to serve as the gate keeper for comprehension and reasoning. Students with the highest overall achievement demonstrated the highest achievement across the three domains and there was also a strong, significant, positive correlation between students’ overall grades and that related to knowledge, comprehension and reasoning, as well as between the cognitive domains. Another key finding was that for the knowledge and comprehension domains there was a significant difference in the performance of males and females in favour of females, but the related effect sizes were tiny. Practical implications and potential directions for future research are discussed.

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Research / Empirical