Illusion of Rigor

Illusion of Rigor

Nonpartisan Education Review / Essays: Volume 14 Number 4

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Illusion of Rigor


Daniel M. Stamm



Abstract:

This essay begins with a brief summary of the IEA comparisons of mathematics achievement from 1964 to 2007, showing the predominance of Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, and Singapore. Then in response to one scholarís suggestion that their success stems from the fact that their curricula are challenging, demanding and rigorous, I provide evidence that in the case of Japan, the exact opposite is true, and that the real key is that Japanese elementary teachers use extremely effective teaching methods which they have developed over decades of classroom research. They also understand that their students, who are taught in mixed ability classrooms, need to move at a moderate pace and have frequent periods of vigorous activity. This results in a high level of learning compared to that of students in other systems, which leads to the mistaken assumption that their curriculum is more difficult. An appendix is provided with excerpts of lessons from two different publishers, separated by seven years, illustrating the efficiency and consistency of their teaching practices.



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