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The Implementation of Educational Standards in Mathematics in SINUS for primary Schools

March 1st, 2019

Sinus students have higher mathematical skills compared to the students in the nationwide comparison sample.

(Translation of an article in: IPN Journal No 4)

Marleen Menk


SINUS for primary schools (SGS) was an IPN-supported classroom development program for mathematics and science education in primary schools. The aim was to improve the quality of teaching and thus student performance by professionalizing teachers. SGS was the fourth SINUS project after the launch of the first model SINUS program in 1998, which came in response to the poor performance of German students in the 1995 TIMS study. It stems from findings that highlighted the pedagogical content knowledge in conjunction with the content knowledge as central to the cognitive stimulation of the students.

Collegial cooperation as a success model in SINUS

Other research-based recommendations for teacher professionalization were also considered and incorporated into the design of SGS. For example, cooperative teaching development based on a cyclical development process and the associated focus on collegial cooperation, which is often considered a success factor of a teacher professionalization measure, were central characteristics of SGS.

The decision to extend the program also followed recommendations for the success of professionalization measures. These recommendations are based on the assumption that the longer and more sustainable a training program is and the more time teachers have invested in participating in the program, the greater the chance that what they have learned will be transferred to the classroom and result in a positive impact on student performance.

The work of the participating teachers was based on 10 modules and 5 main focusses, from current findings from teaching and educational research as well as mathematics and science educational research, and thus dealt with empirically proven problem areas of teaching.

All modules had a close content connection. The here presented study examined the implementation of a focus of SGS, namely the implementation of educational standards in mathematics in primary schools.

Implementation of educational standards

The introduction of educational standards was, like SINUS, a reaction to the disappointing performance of German students in international achievement studies. The comparison of learning outcomes of German students with the performance of students from other countries often caused disappointment and criticism and triggered additional measures for quality assurance in teaching. In 2004, the educational standards in mathematics for primary school level became binding for all federal states. The standards describe requirements for teaching and learning in schools with the aim of ensuring and increasing the quality of academic work and ensuring that the achievement of the formulated goals is verifiable.

In order to implement educational standards in the teaching activities of teachers, teacher training as well as teaching and school development measures constitute helpful strategies. SGS was the first major classroom development program to integrate the implementation of educational standards into its primary school concept nationwide. The program repeatedly addressed the contents of the educational standards in the program, both in the modules and in workshops at key conferences. Promotion of the implementation came from content-related suggestions for the further development of teaching regarding educational standards.

For example, the modules provide suggestions for the analysis and development of tasks intended to promote the development of students' competences in terms of educational standards, and show the acquisition of required competences of educational standards through a content- and process-related opening of mathematics teaching. The guidelines for the implementation of educational standards also addressed survey and promotion of mathematical competences regarding educational standards.

The study presented here includes analysis of data from the nationwide comparative study conducted by the federal states in 2011 to record mathematical competences and that of student performance in the overall sample compared with that of the SGS students. This involved not only a global mathematical competence level but also content-related competence levels.

A competitive edge for SINUS students

In comparison with the students in the nationwide comparison sample, the SGS students showed a significant competence advantage, both on the global scale and in all content-related competence areas. At the same time, it became apparent that the proportion of students whose performance was at competence levels below the standard (competence level III) was smaller in the SGS sample than in the country comparison sample. At the same time, the proportion of high-performing SGS students whose performance was located above competence level III was significantly higher than in the comparative sample.

These findings not only show the successful implementation of educational standards in the instruction of teachers participating in SGS, they also point to the successful promotion of both high-performing and low-performing students in SINUS for primary schools. A comparison of the competence levels of the SGS students with those of the TIMSS sample also showed that the SINUS children had significant competence advantages in all mathematical content and requirement areas. Both studies also showed indications of successful fostering of underachieving students. Although all these studies were only concerned with mathematics teaching, the findings also coincide with results from studies of science teaching.

The findings of these studies underline the importance of classroom development and teacher professionalization programs with regard to the implementation of innovations, such as educational standards.


The history of SINUS, one of the largest nationwide teaching development programs in Germany


Program for "Improving the Efficiency of Mathematics and Science Teaching" (SINUS) in response to TIMSS findings showing deficiencies in mathematics and science in ninth grade students in Germany.

Objective: To develop the knowledge and skills of teachers in mathematics and science teaching.

This should lead to a change in teaching and improve the performance of students in the long term. The program started with 150 secondary schools and approx. 500 teachers from 15 federal states. The final participation were 1 700 secondary schools and about 5 000 teachers. This means that about 10 percent of the schools of this type were involved nationwide.


“SINUS for primary schools” in response to fourth grade test results in reading, mathematics and science.

The program started with 180 primary schools and approx. 650 teachers from 14 federal states. The final participation were 840 primary schools and approx. 5,000 teachers from 10 federal states. This means that about 10 percent of the elementary schools in the participating federal states were involved in the program. After the national program ended, there was Continuation in individual federal states, either as an independent SINUS program or transferred and integrated into educational policy measures of the individual federal states (e.g. projects to promote reading, initiatives to organize the transition from kindergarten to elementary school).

The IPN centrally coordinated and scientifically monitored all SINUS programs. Documents on the SINUS program for primary schools are located here: on the German Education Server.