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A Global Look at Math Instruction


"The topic of fractions is an important concept in elementary school mathematics. The study of fractions not only enables students to perform computations but also provides a foundation for later work with rates, percents, slope, and other topics in secondary school mathematics. However, research has long reported that many students and even adults have difficulty understanding operations with fractions (Behr et al. 1992). Similar results have been observed in international assessments. For instance, a recent report from the "Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study" (TIMSS) shows that U.S. students still do not perform as well as their counterparts in many other countries, especially Asian countries, including Japan, South Korea, and Singapore (Mullis et al. 2008). Korean students consistently ranked second highest in mathematics achievement in a variety of international studies, including the 1999 and 2007 TIMSS studies. However, despite their outstanding performance in international assessments, little research exists that addresses how Korean students learn mathematics, especially the challenging topic of fractions, apropos of the textbook organization. The purpose of this study is not to judge the quality of Korean, Japanese, or U.S. approaches to fraction instruction but rather to use the practices of another country to examine one's practices in order to find a better way to support student learning."