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Mathematical Education: A Comparison Between Japan And America

1114 words - 5 pages

Mathematical Education: A comparison between Japan and America

The mathematical education provided in the United States has proved to be inferior compared to that of other countries. Specifically the Japanese and other Asian educational systems produce more educated mathematics students than the United States. American children tend to score lower on standardized testing than Asian students do. Many studies have been done by research groups such as the National Center for Education Statistics of the U.S. Department of Education and the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement showing the differences in teaching methods between the United States and Japan. ...view middle of the document...

America, on the other hand, does not have such strict requirement or such extensive support. (2)

Another large difference is the focus of classroom study. In a comparison between typical eighth grade classes from Japan and the United States, these differences are made clear. American teachers tend to spend the first part of the period demonstrating a specific type of problem. The second portion of the class is spent applying the methods learned. The teachers assign problems for the students to try while he or she observes, helping anyone that is having trouble. Japanese teachers begin the class with a review of the previous day’s lesson followed by an introduction to that day’s topic. The teachers then typically present a problem which the students have the knowledge to solve, but one that they haven’t seen before. The students spend time working on their own and then they present their methods of solution to the class. The instructor points out some useful methods for solving the problem and the teacher either elaborates on the method or the students practice it. It was observed that American students are assigned more homework than Asian students are and more class time is spent discussing the homework in America than in Japan. In general, American students are taught a specific way in which to solve a problem and then practice on their own. Japanese students, on the other hand, are encouraged to come up with their own methods for solving the problems. They are taught to think instead of how to recall mathematical methods. The study shows that American students out perform Japanese student when tested on their math skill, while Japanese students scored higher when tested on their thinking skills.(3)

From theTIMSS video study (4)

Stigler et al., contributors in a classroom analysis presented to the International Congress on Mathematical Education, state that the gap between American and Japanese performance is a result of the interaction that occurs in the classroom. After analyzing classrooms, he and his colleagues determine the effects of the teachers’ routines on the mathematical learning of the students. They, along with Voigt, observed an interaction between an American teacher and his fifth grade students. He asked them for the area of a right triangle that had been divided into square units. The teacher allowed his students to struggle with the task of counting fractional parts of the squares until they jointly arrived at the correct answer before showing them the method of placing two triangles together to form a square, which...

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