The Practices of Mathematics Educators: A Comparative Study of Teaching Across Countries

Students in the U.S. are being outperformed in mathematics by students from all across the world. Does this mean that the students from other countries will also build better economic skills than the students here, and will their students eventually be able to obtain better jobs involving mathematics than the students learning math in America? We do not want to sit around and find out, so studies are currently being conducted to see how we can increase the mathematics scores of our students as well. The purpose of this study is to determine what practices can be adopted by U.S. mathematics educators to improve the effectiveness of their teaching. Based on the TIMSS 1999 video study, the United States and two higher achieving countries; Hong Kong and Czech Republic were chosen for analysis. Qualitative descriptions of 4 representative lessons from each country were created, focusing on how teachers in each country introduce new topics, the things that they require students to practice, and the material reviewed during lessons. Based on the observations from this study, I concluded that teachers in the United States should provide their students with more opportunities to work challenging problems and to think through mathematics content on their own.

 Amber Beaman, Senior Elementary Education major, worked on this provocative study with Professor Jim Hiebert, a reknowned mathematics education scholar.  This was Amber’s third summer of research, and by her account, this was the best summer ever; the work has really progressed.  Amber is well on the way to success as a classroom teacher and teacher leader.  Her research positions her to effectively support instructional reform efforts, and she will be an asset to any elementary or middle school faculty.  Congratulations Amber!!!

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