Much research has been conducted comparing education in the United States with education in Asian nations, such as Japan, but just how much of this research has been of real use to teachers in the United States? We believe that despite the significant amount of impressive research that has been done analyzing Japanese teaching practices, the manner in which these important findings have been reported to teachers has been largely ineffective. This is unfortunate, because one of the unique strengths of crossnational research is that it provides intact working models of successful practices. Japan is particularly important in this respect because, in many ways, it represents one of the most successful models of constructivist mathematics teaching in the world. We believe that this information is not pursued by U.S. teachers for two general reasons. First, research studies frequently couch results in terms of U.S. deficits. Although we believe these results to be accurate and important, it is difficult for teachers in the United States to compare themselves to teachers in Japan when much of the research that is available makes the persistent lament that U.S. teachers and their students are underachievers. Second, we believe that although important differences exist between Japanese and U.S. school systems (e.g., length of the school year, total time spent on mathematics), the truth is that teachers in both nations have a great deal to learn from each other in terms of the successful practices they use. An unfortunate consequence of the focus on test scores is that school system differences have been mistakenly conflated with teaching practices. This has led to the propagation of several myths about Japanese practices that U.S. teachers tend to cite as evidence of the unsuitability of Japanese practices for U.S. classrooms. We believe that U.S. teachers should separate differences in school systems from differences in teaching practices that could be beneficial to teachers in both nations.
Bryan Moseley and Yukari Okamoto
Hsiu-Zu Ho, Deniz Senturk, Amy G. Lam, Jules M. Zimmer, Sehee Hong, Yukari Okamoto, Sou-Yung Chiu, Yasuo Nakazawa and Chang-Pei Wang
In this study we focus on math anxiety, comparing its dimensions, levels, and relationship with mathematics achievement across samples of 6th-grade students from China, Taiwan, and the United States. The results of confirmatory factor analyses supported the theoretical distinction between affective and cognitive dimensions of math anxiety in all 3 national samples. The analyses of structural equation models provided evidence for the differential predictive validity of the 2 dimensions of math anxiety. Specifically, across the 3 national samples, the affective factor of math anxiety was significantly related to mathematics achievement in the negative direction. Gender by nation interactions were also found to be significant for both affective and cognitive math anxiety.