Contributions from Cross-National Comparative Studies to the Internationalization of Mathematics Education: Studies of Chinese and U.S. Classrooms

  • Jinfa Cai
  • Frank Lester


Cross-national studies offer a unique contribution to the internationalization of mathematics education. In particular, they provide mathematics educators with opportunities to situate the teaching and learning mathematics in a wider cultural context and to reflect on generalization of theories and practices of teaching and learning mathematics that have been developed in particular countries. In this chapter, we discuss a series of cross-national studies involving Chinese and U.S. students that illustrate to how cultural differences in Chinese and U.S. teachers’ teaching practices and beliefs affect the nature of their students’ mathematical performance. We do this by showing that the types of mathematical representations teachers present to students strongly influence the choice of representations students use to solve problems. Specifically, the Chinese teachers overwhelmingly used symbolic representations of instructional tasks, whereas the U.S. teachers relied almost exclusively on verbal explanations and pictorial representations, illustrating that mathematics teaching is local practice which takes place in settings that are both socially and culturally constrained. These results demonstrate the social and cultural nature of teachers’ pedagogical practice


cross-national studies internationalization Chinese and U.S. Classrooms mathematical problem solving solution representations pedagogical representations 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jinfa Cai
    • 1
  • Frank Lester
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Mathematical SciencesUniversity of DelawareDelaware
  2. 2.School of Education Indiana University

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