Phil Daro compares and contrasts learning styles in the United States and Japan. The United States has an “ooh-ooh culture,” as he puts it, in that students frequently rush to find the right answer on their own. This type of learning does not give some students enough time to finish the problem, and the faster students might not even be fully grasping the topic.
Japanese students have a much more collaborative learning style. They spend more time on fewer problems and strive to understand the concept deeply enough to explain it to their fellow students. The end goal is not necessarily for the answers to be correct (although national test scores suggest that they often are), but rather that all students understand the process to get there.
In the United States when you assign a problem, the responsibility of the kid is to get the answer. In Japan, when you assign a problem, the responsibility of the kid is to prepare a presentation the other students will understand.
Daro makes the point that the Japanese strategy of math learning resembles strategies we see during language arts instruction. Contrary to popular belief, language arts and math education are not mutually exclusive skills: success in one does not mean failure in the other. In fact, strong math programs actually lead to higher language arts performance in young students.
Additionally, there are big math ideas present in many children’s books that teachers can use to reinforce math learning during language arts instruction. Adopting these flexible, collaborative learning strategies could therefore lead to student success across different subjects.
Phil Daro was a part of the team that developed the Common Core State Standards for mathematics. He is Site Director of the Strategic Education Research Partnership (SERP) at the San Francisco Unified School District and has worked with the University of California in directing large-scale teacher professional development programs.
This presentation took place on August 12, 2014, as a part of the Summer P12 Mathematics Institute, an event put on by Chicago Public Schools, DePaul University, and Erikson Institute. The purpose of the event was to build and expand capacity to provide high quality mathematics instruction in alignment with the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSSM) in networks, schools, and classrooms.