Nearly all adults, not just those with technical or scientific careers, now need to have adequate proficiency in mathematics – as well as reading and science – for personal fulfilment, employment and full participation in society. With mathematics as its primary focus, the PISA 2012 assessment measured 15-year-olds’ capacity to reason mathematically and use mathematical concepts, procedures, facts and tools to describe, explain and predict phenomena, and to make the wellfounded judgements and decisions needed by constructive, engaged and reflective citizens. Literacy in mathematics defined this way is not an attribute that an individual has or does not have; rather, it is a skill that can be acquired and used, to a greater or lesser extent, throughout a lifetime.

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) reviews the extent to which students near the end of compulsory education have acquired some of the knowledge and skills that are essential for full participation in modern society, particularly in mathematics, reading and science. This section offers an overview of the Programme, including which countries and economies participate and which students are assessed, what types of skills are measured, and how PISA 2012 differs from previous PISA assessments.