Academic journal article Education

Elementary-School Mathematics Instruction and Achievement of Fourth-Grade Students in Japan: Findings from the TIMSS 2007 Assessment

Academic journal article Education

Elementary-School Mathematics Instruction and Achievement of Fourth-Grade Students in Japan: Findings from the TIMSS 2007 Assessment

Article excerpt

Results from recent international assessments have indicated that students in Japan typically score above international averages on mathematics knowledge and application (Martin, Mullis, & Foy, 2008). These assessment findings have led to research studies that have examined student and instructional factors associated with the mathematics achievement of students in Japan (Leung, 2001; Stigler, Gallimore, & Hiebert, 2000). Findings from recent research indicate that several specific instructional factors contribute to the achievement of Japanese students in mathematics (House & Telese, 2008).

A number of research studies have examined instructional practices used in Japanese mathematics classrooms. Several studies have indicated that class sessions spend extensive time examining multiple solutions to a single problem and explore a number of problem-solving strategies (Becker, Silver, Kantowski, Travers, & Wilson, 1990; Sawada, 1999). Further, mathematical information presented during a specific class session is typically linked to ideas covered in prior classes and content that will be discussed in future lessons on the same topic (Shimizu, 2007). Similarly, units of instruction are typically designed to be consistent with the chapters in the textbook and classroom discussions are linked with student learning of the mathematical content (Sekiguchi, 2006). Recent findings also indicate that elementary-school students in Japan engage in cooperative learning activities and discuss their solutions with each other (Fujita, Yamamoto, & Miyawaki, 2007). Finally, a computer-based game has been developed to prepare instructional objectives, present lesson content, and manage lesson situations in order to present real-world mathematical connections in mathematics classrooms in Japan (Matsuda, 2008).

Data from the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) assessments have been used to investigate factors associated with mathematics achievement of students in Japan. Leung (2005) examined lessons from the TIMSS 1999 Video Study and found that classrooms in Japan spent more time on mathematical proofs and covered more complex material than classrooms in western countries. Similarly, it was noted that less time during mathematics lessons was spent on nonmathematical topics in Japanese classroom than was the case for other countries (Hiebert, et al., 2005). Further, students in mathematics classrooms in Japan were found to frequently present alternative solutions for mathematical problems (Shimizu, 1999). Findings from the TIMSS 1999 assessment indicated that frequent use of real-world mathematics examples and teacher demonstrations of procedures for solving problems were positively related to algebra achievement for eighth-grade students in Japan (House, 2006). With respect to interest in learning mathematics, it was noted that the use of classroom examples related to new topics was significantly associated with positive attitudes toward mathematics for students in Japan (House, 2003). Finally, cooperative learning activities and computer-based instruction were effectively incorporated into geometry instruction for eighth-grade students in Japan (House, 2007a). These results indicate that data from the TIMSS assessments can be used to examine instructional strategies employed for mathematics teaching and learning.

The purpose of this study was to extend previous research findings (House, 2007b) on mathematics achievement of elementary-school students in Japan by using data from the most recent TIMSS 2007 assessment. Based on findings from prior research, it was hypothesized that independent learning strategies would be positively associated with achievement test scores. It was also hypothesized that more frequent practice with basic mathematical operations and providing explanations for mathematics problems during lessons would be significantly related to mathematics achievement test scores. …

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