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The Japanese maths curriculum is often considered as an example of a focused and coherent curriculum. In contrast, US school mathematics curricula have often been criticized “a mile wide and an inch deep” because they contained so many topics with many topics being repeated in multiple grades. So, what are factors that influence the development of the Japanese maths curriculum, both official curricular documents and textbooks? In this talk, I will describe how the setup of the Japanese education system supports the on-going development of such a curriculum. In addition, I will discuss the implications of the curriculum development process on lesson study in Japan. Catherine Lewis once characterized the Japanese mathematics textbooks as “frugal,” and how having such concise textbooks supported lesson study. However, lesson study is not just a mechanism of teacher professional learning to implement a curriculum more effectively. It is also an important factor in the feedback process of the curricular development. I will share an example of how lesson study may have influenced the treatment of a mathematics topic in textbooks over the years.
Tad Watanabe is a Professor of Mathematics Education and an Associate Chair of the Department of Mathematics at Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, Georgia, USA. He received his masters degree in mathematics from Purdue University and PhD in mathematics education from Florida State University, under the guidance of Grayson H Wheatley. As a native of Japan, Tad was always interested in the Japanese mathematics curriculum, pedagogy, and teacher professional learning. In 2000, he spent seven months in Japan and visited over 50 elementary and middle school mathematics lessons, both research lessons and daily lessons. Since his return from Japan, he has collaborated with Akihiko Takahashi and Catherine Lewis, among others, to support US teachers implement lesson study in their own schools. He has served as a knowledgeable other for several US lesson study teams. He is also an international collaborator for IMPULS at Tokyo Gakugei University and served as one of the leaders in the Lesson Study Immersion Programme in Japan.
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