방정숙Jeong Suk Pang
DOI: JANT Vol.4(No.2) 111-125, 2000
This paper presents cross-national perspectives on challenges in implementing current mathematics education reform ideals. This paper includes detailed qualitative descriptions of mathematics instruction from unevenly successful second-grade classrooms both in Korea and in the U.S. with regard to reform recommendations. Despite dramatic differences in mathematics achivement between Korean and the U.S. students, problems in both countries with regard to mathematics education are perceived to be very similar. The shared problems have a common origin in teacher-centered instruction. Educational leaders in both countries have persistently attempted to change the teacher-centered pedagogy to a student-centered approach. Many teachers report familiarity with and adherence to reform ideas, but their actual classroom teaching practices do not reflect the full implications of the reform ideals. Given the challenges in implementing reform, this study explored the breakdown that may occur between teachers` adoption of reform objectives and their successful incorporation of reform ideals by comparing and contrasting two reform-oriented classrooms in both countries. This comparison and contrast provided a unique opportunity to reflect on possibly subtle but crucial issues with regard to reform implementations. Thus, this study departed from past international comparisons in which the common objective has been to compare general social norms of typical mathematics classes across countries. This study was an exploratory, qualitative, comparative case study using grounded theory methodology based on constant comparative analysis for which the primary data sources were classroom video recordings and transcripts. The Korean portion of this study was conducted by the team of four researchers, including the author. The U.S. portion of this study and a brief joint analysis were conducted by the author. This study compared and contrasted the classroom general social norms and sociomathematical norms of two Korean and two U.S. second-grade teachers who aspired to implement reform. The two classrooms in each country were chosen because of their unequal success in activating the reform recommendations. Four mathematics lessons were videotaped from Korean classes, whereas fourteen lessons were videotaped from the U.S. classes. Intensive interviews were conducted with each teacher. The two classes within each country established similar social participation patterns but very different sociomathematical norms. In both classes open-ended questioning, collaborative group work, and students` own problem solving constituted the primary modes of classroom participation. However, in one class mathematical significance was constituted as using standard algorithm with accuracy, whereas the other class established a focus on providing reasonable and convincing arguments. Given these different mathematical foci, the students in the latter class had more opportunities to develop conceptual understanding than their counterparts. The similarities and differences between the two teaching practices within each country clearly show that students` learning opportunities do not arise from general social norms of a classroom community. Instead, they are closely related to its sociomathematical norms. Thus this study suggests that reform efforts highlight the importance of sociomathematical norms that become established in the classroom microculture. This study also provides a more caution for the Korean reform movement than for its U.S. counterpart.