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In the Japanese lesson above, students spend almost the entire class period working on one word problem. The teacher walks around, looking at their work, and asking questions like, “How did you obtain this? In the United States, it was typical for teachers to intervene at the first sign of confusion or struggle.Hiebert says there are big differences between how teachers in the U. and teachers in Japan tend to think about the value of struggle.And most eighth-grade math teachers in Japan were teaching pretty much the same way.
No one had ever attempted to videotape teaching on a wide scale like this. Here’s one of the videos, of an eighth-grade math class in the United States, circa 1994.
The videographers in Japan and the United States would record a class, ship it off to the researchers, and then go to another school to record another class.
“Fed Ex got a lot of business during these studies,” says Hiebert.
The Fed Ex packages were headed to UCLA, where researchers watched the videotapes (with English subtitles for the Japanese lessons). It could take a day to get through a single lesson.
And what was perhaps more remarkable is that teaching within each country looked pretty much the same.
In other words, most eighth-grade math teachers in the United States were teaching math pretty much the same way.
The researchers came up with a name to describe Japanese teaching.
They called it “structured problem solving.” The researchers concluded that the American teaching approach did not require students to do much mathematical thinking and reasoning. Supplementary: 180.” I remember learning lots of little tricks like this in my math classes growing up.
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.