The Motivational Effects of Specific Instructional Strategies and Computer Use for Mathematics Learning in Japan: Findings from the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS)

By House, J. Daniel | International Journal of Instructional Media, Winter 2003 | Go to article overview

The Motivational Effects of Specific Instructional Strategies and Computer Use for Mathematics Learning in Japan: Findings from the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS)


House, J. Daniel, International Journal of Instructional Media


There has been considerable attention given to the design of instructional activities and materials to promote student learning and achievement in mathematics. For instance, an instructional design approach for mathematics learning has been developed (realistic mathematics education) that uses context problems to facilitate students' development of applied problem solving strategies (Gravemeijer & Doorman, 1999). This strategy provides experiences intended to help students become able to reinvent formal mathematics. Recent findings describe a program based on realistic mathematics education designed to teach differential equations to college students (Rasmussen & King, 2000). Another instructional design approach for mathematics learning has been described that incorporates video technology and cooperative learning situations (Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt, 1992). Similarly, it has been reported that the use of both discovery learning features and direct instruction strategies in computer-based instruction resulted in improved mathematics achievement (Sfondillas & Siegel, 1990). Cooperative learning strategies were found to result in improved student achievement in several types of college mathematics courses (Duncan & Dick, 2000). Further, the use of cooperative learning activities when designing mathematics instruction appears to produce multiple opportunities for students to obtain explanations from other students and to result in positive perspectives about cooperative learning situations (Leikin & Zaslavsky, 1997). In addition to the use of specific learning strategies to facilitate cognitive gains, it has also been noted that student motivation should be given consideration when designing effective instruction (Main, 1993; Spitzer, 1996). Several types of affective characteristics (motivation, attitudes, and values) were included as components of a cognitive system for an educational learning model (Tennyson, 1992). Similarly, a motivational model of design has been developed (Keller, 1983, 1984) and tested in cross-cultural settings (Visser & Keller,1990). Consequently, it is important to incorporate several types of learning activities when designing effective mathematics instruction and to consider the motivational qualities of those teaching strategies.

Students in Japan typically score above international averages on international mathematics assessments (Mayer, Tajika, & Stanley, 1991; U.S. Department of Education, 1997). Further, students in Japan tend to use more sophisticated mathematics concepts and problem-solving strategies than students from the United States (Silver, Leung, & Cai, 1995). Consequently, the specific strategies used for mathematics teaching in Japan have been examined. For instance, expanded opportunities for further study are incorporated through the use of supplementary books with practice problems in mathematics for junior-high school students in Japan (Trefla, 1998). In addition, research indicates that students in Japan have extensive practice incorporated into their daily schedule (Shimizu, 1998) and that they are required to complete more daily homework (Stigler, Lee, Lucker, & Stevenson, 1982). Results from an observational study of activities in elementary-school mathematics classrooms in the United States and Japan indicated that teachers in the Japanese classrooms spent significantly more class time asking academic questions of the entire group while United States teachers asked significantly more questions of individual students (Stigler, Lee, & Stevenson, 1987); further, significantly more time in the United States classrooms was spent on off-task issues than was the case in Japan. More recent findings from classroom observations as part of the TIMSS Videotape Classroom Study indicated that eighth-grade classrooms in Japan were conducted with fewer outside interruptions and that students in Japan showed more class time spent on activities designed for inventing and proving and less time on the practice of routine procedures (Stigler, Gallimore, & Hiebert, 2000). …

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