A typical class might begin with the teacher giving students a word problem, like in the video above.The students come up with as many ways as they can to solve the problem.But it takes just 40 seconds for the teacher to interrupt the class to say, “OK, you want some prompting on this one?
Students did not appear to be learning the math in a very deep way.
In Japan, teachers would ask students to come up with their own procedures for solving problems.
Students in Japan did memorize terms and formulas, and teachers did explicitly demonstrate procedures for solving problems, but there was significantly more time devoted to having the students apply this knowledge, on their own, to new and challenging problems.
The students learn there are multiple ways to solve a math problem; it’s not just about memorizing a procedure the teacher taught you.
“Our goal was to find out what an average eighth-grader would experience when they got up in the morning, went to their local school and had math class,” says James Hiebert, a professor at the University of Delaware and one of the researchers who worked on the study.
No one really knew what American teaching looked like.
Watch the video above, and you will see this approach in action.
The researchers concluded that the American teaching approach did not require students to do much mathematical thinking and reasoning.
And most eighth-grade math teachers in Japan were teaching pretty much the same way.
But there was an American way of teaching math, and there was a Japanese way of teaching math, and these ways of teaching were distinctly different.