Hunger and learning environment: global patterns in student hunger and disorderly behavior in math lessons

Case Studies & Research
8 p.

It is well understood that when students are experiencing hunger, their ability to learn suffers. What is less understood is why this is the case and the role of the learning environment. Using TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) 2019 data, this brief examines how student hunger is correlated with how disorderly the classroom environment is during math lessons. Even though the data does not allow us to unpack why students come to school hungry, we found a consistent relationship between hunger and disorderly classroom environment, without any exception, across 38 TIMSS 2019 participating countries. This relationship holds even after controlling for differences in student and classroom socioeconomic status, class size, teacher experience, and educational attainment. These findings suggest that when students come to school hungry, they have a harder time paying attention and regulating their behavior. This can result in a disorderly and less effective learning environment for all students, even those not experiencing hunger.