Problem solving in China |

Problem solving in China

Maybe they just do it better in China – visualizing mathematics, that is. That’s what Bridges High School math teacher George Austin-Martin is going there to find out. During the first two weeks in September, Austin-Martin will travel to China under the auspices of the National Council of Teachers and the Mathematics Association of America to find out how the Chinese train their math teachers and what they teach. It’s not about trying to mimic the Chinese because students there are generally more proficient in math than American students, he said. The Chinese educational system can work only in a Chinese cultural setting, he said. “I want to learn, ‘How are their teachers prepared?'” Austin-Martin said. Chinese elementary school teachers are in school through the ninth grade, then get two or three more years of higher education, yet they have a much better grasp of math than many American teachers with graduate degrees, he said. Chinese teachers generally understand math on a conceptual level very well, whereas many American teachers take a more mechanical approach to math, memorizing formulas instead of visualizing the problems they’re trying to solve, Austin-Martin said. “It’s very rote the way we think about mathematics here,” he said. Austin-Martin is the first teacher from Bridges High School sent to China to learn about that country’s ways of teaching. Specifically, he said, his mission is to ask questions about whether all students should achieve a uniform level of math literacy, how teachers prepare themselves for teaching math, what math concepts are taught at each level of school in China and whether students should use calculators and other technology at certain levels.Austin-Martin said he didn’t know for sure why he was chosen to go to China, but he suspects it has to do with his work for several national mathematics journals and the workshops his students have conducted at national math conferences.

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