Lesson Study: A Japanese Approach to Improving Mathematics Teaching and Learning

Lesson Study: A Japanese Approach to Improving Mathematics Teaching and Learning

Lesson Study: A Japanese Approach to Improving Mathematics Teaching and Learning

Lesson Study: A Japanese Approach to Improving Mathematics Teaching and Learning


Lesson study is a popular professional development approach in Japan whereby teachers collaborate to study content, instruction, and how students solve problems and reach for understanding in order to improve elementary mathematics instruction and learning in the classroom.

This book is the first comprehensive look at the system and process of lesson study in Japan. It describes in detail the process of how teachers conducted lesson study--how they collaborated in order to develop a lesson, what they talked about during the process, and what they looked at in order to understand deeply how students were learning. Readers see the planning of a mathematics lesson, as well as how much content knowledge the teachers have. They observe students' problem solving strategies and learn how Japanese teachers prepare themselves to identify those strategies and facilitate the students' discussion.

Written for mathematics teachers, educational researchers, school administrators interested in teachers' professional development, and professional developers, this landmark volume provides an in-depth understanding of lesson study that can lead to positive changes in teachers' professional development and in teaching and learning in the United States.


I will never forget the first time I bought a cookie in a Japanese department store. I looked through the glass bakery case and pointed to the cookie I wanted, much as I might have done in a bakery back home. But that's where similarity to home ended and Japanese culture started to take over. The clerk took my cookie and wrapped it carefully in tissue paper. She gently placed it in a gold paper box, sized perfectly to fit my single cookie. She then took a piece of ribbon and carefully tied it around the box. This elegant package was then placed in a beautiful bag with a handle on top. For Americans, the point is to eat the cookie, not convert it into an artistic masterpiece. We tend to think such details don't matter, but they do. As I later unwrapped my cookie, I enjoyed it in a way I had never enjoyed a cookie before.

It turns out “cookie wrapping” is not an isolated practice, but just another example of the way the Japanese approach many things, including teaching and learning. On that first trip to Japan in 1979, besides eating cookies and riding on trains that departed and arrived exactly on time, I visited an elementary school and observed a Japanese mathematics class for the first time. Impressed by the teaching method, and more so by the teacher, I wondered about the exquisite preparation it must take for someone to learn to teach with such precision and artistry. It was later, after many trips to Japan and many visits to Japanese schools, that I became aware of “lesson study” and the role it might play in the development of teaching in Japan. Just as Japanese cookies are converted into artistic masterpieces, so too are Japanese lessons meticulously planned and teaching improved.

The concept of lesson study seems simple and obvious: If you want to improve education, get teachers together to study the processes of teaching and learning in classrooms, and then devise ways to improve them. Re-

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