Japanese-based math textbooks the answer?

By Murray Bourne, 08 Aug 2006

Still fishing around for answers for their mathematics learning problems, the Americans are now very interested in English translations of Japanese mathematics texts. The article in Indonesia's Antara News, Japan-made English math textbooks draw attention overseas (article no longer available), points out some interesting differences in the perceived approach of Japanese educators and their US counterparts:

The Japanese textbooks "don't immediately tell you how to solve [math problems]. If you immediately tell children how to solve things it can short-circuit thinking"

I've said this for a long time - one of the biggest problems with a lot of education is that lecturers provide the answers before the students even know what the questions are. This is not the right approach.

But back to the article... I taught mathematics in Japan, in English, as part of a mid-western USA college programme (Heidelberg College, to be precise) for 3 years. It was a very interesting experience, because the classes tended to be more about the language used in the problems, rather than the difficulty of the mathematics. But the students had the usual problems with algebra, trigonometry and logarithms that all students everywhere seem to have.

I wonder whether Japanese (or Singaporean for that matter) approaches can be used in the US. The cultures are very different and I'm not sure how much can be transferred successfully. But anything has got to be better than the current situation.

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