Department of Mathematics Colloquium

University of Idaho

Spring 2012

Thursday,  February 7, 3:30-4:20 pm, room TLC 032

Refreshments in Brink 305 at 4:30 pm

Comparing Chinese and American Mathematics Lessons Taught to Similar Groups of Chinese Students


Thomas  Ricks

Department of Educational Theory, Policy, and Practice

Louisiana State University


The recent ascendancy of mainland China in the global marketplace is matched by a similarly impressive rise in the success of Chinese mathematics education programs. Chinese students are increasingly outperforming American students on international measures of mathematics competence; for example, a recent international mathematics comparison (PISA 2009) ranks Chinese students at the very top. The increasing influx of Chinese students into STEM graduate education at top American universities also attests to their mathematical skill. The ubiquitous “MADE IN CHINA” label seems to apply more and more to mathematics education as mainland China churns out employees proficient in mathematics. Much of the popular rhetoric in the American press paints a gloomy picture for future American mathematics prospects. Despite this, the Chinese actually envy much about American mathematics pedagogy—the proverbial “grass being greener on the other side” aptly fits the comparison of Chinese and American mathematics education because both countries envy the other. This presentation is part of the ongoing cooperation between Chinese and American scholars to learn about the successful mathematics education practices in the other country. In particular, this presentation provides for an American audience a window on Chinese mathematics education practices by comparing Chinese and American teachers’ lessons on geometric probability, taught to similar groups of Chinese students at an urban Chinese high school. After detailing the mathematics content, lesson structures, and patterns of discourse of two specific lessons, I discuss how the findings of this study both confirm and challenge current research on Chinese and American mathematics education.