MATH THE JAPANESE WAY
Global Interest in Japanese Math Textbooks Is Multiplying (October 4, 2006)
Appearing in US Classrooms
Textbook publisher Tokyo Shoseki Co., which commands the largest share of Japan's elementary-school mathematics textbook market, translated its 2000 edition of Atarashii sansu (New Arithmetic) into English in April. Another publisher, Gakko Tosho Co., published an English version of one of its arithmetic textbooks last spring. Tokyo Shoseki's translated text has been praised for its excellent content and natural English. Since going on sale, the text has been used in elementary schools in the United States and is also drawing attention from teachers in Singapore and other Asian countries. Gakko Tosho's translated textbooks are even being utilized in the English curriculums at some private schools in Japan. They have also found use as supplementary learning materials or as main textbooks in the United States and the Marshall Islands.
The main reason behind the popularity of Japanese textbooks abroad is that they explain the underlying concepts needed to solve mathematical problems. Many American math textbooks contain superficial content that often overlaps between grade levels and focuses on memorizing information and completing exercises. Proponents of math education reform in the US have shown strong interest in the Japanese approach. The 1999 book The Teaching Gap, which introduced Japanese teaching methods in mathematics to an American audience, was so popular it became a bestseller.
One math education expert points out that the teaching materials currently receiving acclaim outside Japan do not go beyond the level of basic arithmetic. Still, even if only at the elementary-school level, it appears that Japanese math textbooks are poised to become an increasingly common sight in classrooms around the world.