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How is cultural influence manifested in the formation of mathematics textbooks? A comparative case study of resource book series between Shanghai and England


Focusing on issues about the development of mathematics textbooks from a cultural perspective, this study examined a widely-used curriculum resource series, One Lesson One Exercise, published in China, and its adapted English series, published in the UK, to explore how cultural influence is manifested in the two series of resource books. For the study we established a conceptual framework classifying culture into six types in relation to people’s beliefs, values and ways of interacting about them, for data collection and analysis. The results indicate that there exist considerable differences between the Chinese and the English series that are related to cultural factors. It appears that, to a large extent, culture plays an essential role in the development of mathematics textbooks. Concerning the different types of culture, the results show that most adaptations between the Chinese series and the English series are related to ‘ways of behaving and customs’ and ‘artifacts, flora and fauna’, followed by ‘identities’ and ‘geography’, and the least are related to ‘organisations’ and ‘history’. Based on the study, we argue that the relevance and importance of culture to the development of mathematics textbooks must not be underestimated, and more research in this direction is needed.

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  1. In this study, the term “textbooks” is used broadly to refer to conventional print textbooks, e-textbooks, and other curriculum resource books for teaching and learning.

  2. In Shanghai, primary school education consists of 5 years from Grade 1 (at age of 6) to Grade 5 (at age of 11). In England, it consists of 6 years from Year 1 (at age of 5) to Year 6 (at age of 11).

  3. The first and third authors were working at the Southampton Education School of the University of Southampton while the main stage of this study was undertaken.

  4. It appears arguable whether Joan, supposedly a girl, has £200 at her disposal, and whether two dictionaries cost £79 are realistic and to what extent for learners in England. Nevertheless, as aforementioned, a further discussion about how the adaptation can be improved is beyond the scope and intention of this study.

  5. The number was changed to 6341 in the latest edition of the series.

  6. According to available statistics, there were 861 million active monthly QQ users in China; Accessed 15 Oct 2017.


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The authors wish to thank Mr Paul Broadbent and Mr Ming Ni for their help and the anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments. The study was supported in part by a research grant from Shanghai Core Mathematics and Practice Key Laboratory (Award No: 18dz2271000).

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Correspondence to Lianghuo Fan.

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Fan, L., Xiong, B., Zhao, D. et al. How is cultural influence manifested in the formation of mathematics textbooks? A comparative case study of resource book series between Shanghai and England. ZDM Mathematics Education 50, 787–799 (2018).

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  • Mathematics textbook development
  • Textbook research
  • Culture and textbooks
  • Cultural influence on textbooks
  • Comparative study in mathematics education