TIMSS: Math Classrooms in Action. (Update: Education News from Schools, Businesses, Research and Government Agencies)

Article excerpt

More conceptual lessons, less review time. Gleaned from a new video study of methods for teaching eighth-grade math, the suggestion above could potentially cause a teachers' mutiny. If students aren't absorbing a concept, shouldn't they review it before moving on and potentially lagging behind?

The report, Teaching Mathematics in Seven Countries: Results from the Third International Mathematics and Science 1999 Video Study, found U.S. teachers used a lot of time for review. In five other high-achieving countries tracked by the study, teachers make connections among facts, procedures and concepts when introducing new content--so students need less review.

The study summarizes thousands of hours of videotape from schools in the U.S. and six countries that outperformed the U.S. on an earlier TIMSS math assessment.

In Japan, private classroom work lime often involves students inventing ways to solve problems before they are taught a standard written procedure. "The intent is not to practice something they already know how to do, but to try to modify or adjust what they know to fit this new situation," says Jim Hiebert, director of the math portion of the video study and a University of Delaware professor of education.

Hiebert says what surprised him most was "the extent of variation among high achieving countries in how they teach mathematics." However, he cautions against assuming almost any kind of teaching will work.

On the other hand, administrators shouldn't interpret the results too literally. He warns not to mistakenly assume that the kind of instruction in these countries caused high achievement, he says. …