Quality & Quantity 34: 1–15, 2000.
© 2000 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
Television Viewing and High School Mathematics
Achievement: A Neural Network Analysis
Department of Communication, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK 73019-0335, U.S.A., and
Synapteq Research, http://www.synapteq.com
Abstract. This study examines the relationship between mathematics achievement and television
viewing. The data consist of 13,542 high school seniors from the High School and Beyond project
conducted by U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. A feed-
forward neural network is employed as a nonlinear model. A curvilinear relationship is found,
independent of viewer characteristics, parental background, parental involvement, and leisure activ-
ities, with a peak at about one hour of viewing, and persistent upon the inclusion of statistical errors.
It is further shown that for low-ability students the curvilinearity is replaced with an entirely positive
correlation across all hours of television viewing.
Key words: television, mathematics achievement, nonlinear, neural networks.
1. Statement of the Problem
The signiﬁcance of this study derives from the statistic indicating that by the time
of high school graduation, the average individual will have spent more hours view-
ing television than in the classroom (Fosarelli, 1986; National Institute of Mental
Health, 1982). Data indicating a steady increase in the amount of time children
and teenagers in the United States spend watching television (Comstock and Paik,
1991), coupled with American students’ lower than desired achievement scores
in mathematics in comparison to their foreign counterparts (Lapointe et al., 1992;
Lapointe et al., 1989), renders the relationship between mathematics performance
and television viewing one of great importance.
The signiﬁcance of the issue goes beyond its theoretical importance. The estab-
lishment of a relationship between television viewing and academic achievement
could have applied value. A negative correlation between television viewing and
academic performance might call for restraint at home or some other type of
guidance and supervision. A null correlation might lead to redirection of energy
and attention to other factors contributing to achievement. A positive correlation
might provide a basis for enhanced use of television in education. In light of the
social signiﬁcance of the issue, concerns about the amount of time children spend
watching television, and the possibility that such consumption may be affecting