The Teaching Gap

As you will see, The Teaching Gap compares mathematics instruction in the United States, Japan, and Germany on the basis of data collected through the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). You might be surprised (or not) that the United States does not compare favorably. But it is important that you understand that The Teaching Gap is not about a contest. Rather it is about trying to learn more about us by examining instruction in other countries. As Stigler and Hiebert say repeatedly, mathematics instruction is a cultural phenomenon, and coming to understand one's culture is like a fish coming to understand water. A creature cannot even notice its all-pervasive environment until it experiences life outside it. Our educational culture is so all-pervasive that there are important aspects of it that we cannot notice without experiencing cultures in which they are different. So, please read The Teaching Gap in that spirit -- as an attempt to help us step out of our culture of mathematics teaching in order to examine it more objectively.

Reflective Essay

Please respond to these questions after reading The Teaching Gap.

1)   How did the book make you feel? How did that feeling evolve from beginning to middle to end of the book?

2)   Which style of teaching, or combination of styles, best describes the junior high and high school mathematics instruction that you received?

3)   What issues raised in the book have the greatest implication for how you think about teaching mathematics? Has your thinking changed? If so, how. If not, why?

4)   What does The Teaching Gap have to say about how German, Japanese, and American cultures think about students studying mathematics or about the expectations held of them?

5)   Is there a noticeable difference among the countries in their goals for the mathematics that students learn?