Conceptions of effective mathematics …

A new article about teachers’ conception of effective mathematics teaching. The article investigates the perspectives of teachers from China and the U.S., and I find it particularly interesting because it focus on the issue of cultural beliefs. I think this is an interesting concept, and I’ve used it before in one of my own articles. The idea of cultural beliefs comes from results of cross-national studies where researchers have identified clear differences in the teaching practices of teachers from East-Asian and Western countries.

In the study referred to in the article below, 9 Chinese teachers and 11 U.S. teachers were interviewed. The semi-structured interviews that were used in the study were constructed according to Ernest’s traditional framework of three aspects of mathematics teachers’ beliefs. The study showed that the teachers from these two countries held quite different beliefs about good mathematics teaching. These views were also closely connected with their views on the nature of mathematics.

Conceptions of effective mathematics teaching within a cultural context: perspectives of teachers from China and the United States

Journal    Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education
Publisher    Springer Netherlands
ISSN    1386-4416 (Print) 1573-1820 (Online)
DOI    10.1007/s10857-009-9132-1
Subject Collection    Humanities, Social Sciences and Law
SpringerLink Date    Tuesday, November 17, 2009

By Jinfa Cai and Tao Wang

Abstract  This study investigates Chinese and U.S. teachers’ cultural beliefs concerning effective mathematics teaching from the teachers’ perspectives. Although sharing some common beliefs, the two groups of teachers think differently about both mathematics understanding and the features of effective teaching. The sample of U.S. teachers put more emphasis on student understanding with concrete examples, and the sample of Chinese teachers put more emphasis on abstract reasoning after using concrete examples. The U.S. teachers highlight a teacher’s abilities to facilitate student participation, manage the classroom and have a sense of humor, while the Chinese teachers emphasize a teacher’s solid mathematics knowledge and careful study of textbooks. Both groups of teachers agree that memorization and understanding cannot be separated. However, for the U.S. teachers, memorization comes after understanding, but for Chinese teachers, memorization can come before understanding. These differences of teachers’ beliefs are discussed in a cultural context.

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