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how the US & Japan teach math & science

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clay dube
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how the US & Japan teach math & science

How do we teach core concepts? Hotly debated topic now as the "common core curriculum" takes hold. Even made the California Report (on some public radio stations) this morning (elementary math):
http://edsource.org/today/2014/common-core-standards-bring-dramatic-changes-to-elementary-school-math/55886#.Ut60DLSIaUl (or to listen: http://www.californiareport.org/archive/R201401210850/b)

I was struck, though, to read this blog entry on a South Carolina elementary school that focuses on engineering. It is from Deb Fallows and is at The Atlantic website:
http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/01/americas-tiniest-engineers-report-from-greenville-south-carolina/283199/

The school gets a lot of help from volunteers from neighboring companies such as General Electric. The school though is in a troubled area with high unemployment and poverty rates.

So how does Asia fit in? It doesn't, except in that there's a lot of emphasis these days on teaching students to think, solve, and create. This US government report that Japanese students emerge from K-12 with stronger math/science skills. It noted that students are not grouped together in Japan according to skill levels, but that instead all students were to become competent in such skills.

Here is a Boston Museum site to aid teachers: Engineering is Elementary.

The US National Science Foundation noted:
The typical goal of U.S. mathematics teachers is to teach students how to do something, but the typical goal of Japanese teachers is to help them understand mathematical concepts.

So it seems that the common core aim should bring the US closer to Japanese approaches.

More common core NPR links.
Earlier story:
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=210253948
And in Florida:
http://stateimpact.npr.org/florida/tag/common-core/
And in Delaware:
http://www.npr.org/2013/09/22/225120320/in-push-for-common-standards-many-parents-left-uneducated