Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics: Teachers' Understanding of Fundamental Mathematics in China and the United States

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Overview

This book describes the nature and development of the "profound understanding of fundamental mathematics that elementary teachers need to become accomplished mathematics teachers and suggests why such teaching knowledge is much more common in China than in the United States despite the fact that Chinese teachers have less formal education than their U.S. counterparts. The studies described in this volume suggest that Chinese teachers begin their teaching careers with a better understanding of elementary mathematics than that of most U.S. elementary teachers. Their understanding of the mathematics they teach andequally important - of the ways that elementary mathematics can be presented to students continues to grow throughout their professional lives. The concluding chapter of the book suggests changes in teacher preparation, teacher support, and mathematics education research that might allow teachers in the United States to attain profound understanding of fundamental mathematics.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Both sides in the math wars claim Dr. Ma as their own. Districts have distributed her book to teachers. Its broad appeal offers some hope for common ground in math education....we will continue fights over whether children should be taught arithmetic rules or theory. What Dr. Ma shows is that we need both."
—The New York Times

"Ma's book is a significant contribution to mathematics education because it begins to tackle the important and complex question of 'what is mathematical knowledge for elementary teaching'. In doing so, she helps us to understand elementary mathematics as a complex and demanding subject that is to be taken seriously."
—Contemporary Psychology

"Elementary school teachers need as deep an understanding of the mathematics they teach as high school teachers need of what they teach. Both need a deep knowledge of the mathematics which comes in later grades, at least three or four, for this knowledge should influence how topics are taught."
—Mathematicians and Educational Reform

"Must reading for those who call for more mathematics and those who champion reform pedagogy in teacher education."
—CHOICE

"...Ma has done a masterful job of showing how the conceptual approach of Chinese elementary school teachers succeeds where the procedural approach of their American counterparts flounders....I highly recommend this brief volume to elementary school teachers who wish to improve their teaching of mathematics. I also recommend it to all university teacher educators who want their students to develop that 'profound understanding of fundamental mathematics' that allows Chinese students to outscore their American counterparts in international assessments."
—Mathematics Teaching in the Middle Schools

"The contributions of this book are multifaceted....This book is an excellent resource and will interest anyone involved in teaching preservice teachers, as well as researchers concerned with teachers' knowledge of content and methods."
—Teaching Children Mathematics

"Even beyond education, the book supports the need for, and indeed the educational benefits of, changing professional teaching conditions for U.S. teachers....it provides some food for thought for everyone involved in improving mathematics education. And it supports the necessity, highlighted in NCTM's Standards documents, that even at the elementary school level, students can, and should, learn challenging mathematics."
—NCTM News Bulletin

"For all who are concerned with mathematics education...Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics is an important book. For those who are skeptical that mathematics education research can say much of value, it can serve as a counterexample. For those interested in improving precollege mathematics education in the U.S., it provides important clues to the nature of the problem. An added bonus is that, despite the somewhat forbidding educationese of its title, the book is quite readable....I recommend this book!"
—Notices of the AMS

"Ma's work has been well received on both sides of the so-called math wars....Supporters of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) reform agenda are pleased by her stress on real understanding as opposed to mere computational competence."
—American Scientist

"...a book that is becoming a stealth hit for math junkies on both sides of the 'math wars,' and a must read for anyone interested in solving the problems of public schools."
—The Christian Science Monitor Electronic Edition

"The book is earning praise both from some of those who support changes proposed in the NCTM Standards and from some of those who oppose them, and it is sparking discussion. It is also helping to unify some disparate forces in mathematics education on at least a few ideas for continuing positive changes....[the book] provides some food for thought for everyone involved in improving mathematics education."
—NCTM News Bulletin

"Mathematical performance of children in countries in the west like the USA and the UK is a constant source of concern when comparisons are made with achievements in countries in the Far East and Eastern Europe. Liping Ma's book provides valuable insights into possible explanations for this disparity—and these have obvious implications for the training of mathematics teachers in any country."
—British Journal of Educational Technology

"Liping Ma's work has given me hope about what can be done to improve mathematics education."
—Richard Askey, University of Wisconsin-Madison

"This is indeed a valuable, enlightening book. It attests to the talent of its author, and to the Chinese and American learning environments that have nurtured that talent. It attests to the value of welcoming scholars from other nations to study in the United States. I urge all those who are seriously concerned about the quality of mathematics education in the United States to read this book, and to take its lessons seriously."
—Lee Shulman, President, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, From the Foreword

"For all who are concerned with mathematics education in the U.S., Liping Ma has written an important book. It provides valuable clues to the nature of the problem of improving our K-12 mathematics education. An added bonus is that, despite the somewhat foreboding educationese of its title, it is quite readable. I recommend this book."
—Roger Howe, Yale University

"Must reading for those who call for more mathematics and those who champion reform pedagogy in teacher education."
—Anna O. Graeber, University of Maryland-College Park

"...both a graceful introduction (for mathematicians and other neophytes) to an important area of mathematics education and an interesting theoretical work in its own right. I recommend it highly."
—Judith Roitman, University of Kansas

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Liping Ma earned a Ph.D. from Stanford University, following a masters degree in education from East China Normal University. After a term as a senior scientist at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, she is now an independent scholar.

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Table of Contents

Foreword
Acknowledgments
Introduction
1 Subtraction With Regrouping: Approaches To Teaching A Topic 1
2 Multidigit Number Multiplication: Dealing With Students' Mistakes 28
3 Generating Representations: Division By Fractions 55
4 Exploring New Knowledge: The Relationship Between Perimeter And Area 84
5 Teachers' Subject Matter Knowledge: Profound Understanding Of Fundamental Mathematics 107
6 Profound Understanding Of Fundamental Mathematics: When And How Is It Attained 125
7 Conclusion 144
Appendix 154
References 156
Author Index 161
Subject Index 163
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 30, 2004

    Home Schooling Mom

    I found this book to be very enlightening on the subject of Math education and the differences in understanding of elementary math education between Asian, specifically China, and the US. She gives detailed examples of various elementary/basic math concepts that students must learn and discusses how the different teachers approached problems and understood the mathematical concepts. Frankly, I have had a college level class on math for elementary teachers which I found helpful in filling in the gaps of my own understanding of math and ways to teach it. However, I found the many detailed explanations given by the chinese teachers to be much better at connecting all the concepts and previous knowledge. I highly recommend this book to any US teachers whether in public/private schools or in home schools.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted February 27, 2009

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    Posted March 11, 2010

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