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Topic: Musings about Question 3
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Ed Wall

Posts: 845
Registered: 12/3/04
Musings about Question 3
Posted: Mar 24, 2001 2:27 PM
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Professor Zhang

I will be rather short. There was a time when - I think - the US
high school curriculum had several of the below topics (and none of
the 'extra' topics) although analytical geometry was not a usual
component (however, it did occur). For some students this seemed
quite useful and some yet wonder, somewhat justifiably in my opinion,
whether broadening our curriculum and incorporating calculus was
wise. At the same time - for, I think, numerous reasons which involve
a conception of mathematics and pedagogy - it wasn't particularly
successful for the large majority of US high school students.
Bracketing the calculus - as its incorporation seems to have been
driven in part by US university admission policies - the other
additional US topics may have, in part, have been introduced to
address motivation and what might be termed a mathematical literacy
need. That is, given that we suspect that large numbers of US
students might be substantially bored by, for example, the teaching
of solid geometry (please note I am referring to the teaching and not
the subject matter), the tendency has been to introduce topics that
seem more culturally relevant (note that getting into US universities
is culturally relevant) - for example, being able to read newspaper
statistics has been cited (and one may agree or disagree as to the
appropriateness or importance).
Are any of the considerations particular to US culture relevant to
Chinese culture? I would expect some, but not all. For example, if
one valued the ability of a Chinese teenager to read newspaper
statistics and the ability to foster such was conceptually relegated
to the mathematics classroom (it need not occur only there, for
example), then probability and data analysis might become a point of
But the real difficulty seems to be a topical focus as if this
were primary. I would hope that any mathematics curriculum would have
as a primary focus the doing of significant and substantial
mathematics. That is and has been a problem with the US curriculum
although we do have teachers that succeed. Topical (re)organizations
however well meaning, I suggest, incompletely address this problem.
Do they in China? I don't know and can't tell from the list of
topics. I do, for other reasons, suspect this is a not an
inconsiderable problem.

Ed Wall

>Which mathematical topics are the most important for high school?

Chinese mathematics education stresses the theory of functions, trigonometry
and solid geometry.

[Background] The Chinese mathematics curriculum for high schools includes
four courses:
1. Sets and functions, including all elementary functions--exponential,
logarithmic, trigonometric.
2. Solid geometry.
3. Analytical geometry.
4. Algebra: equations, combinatorics.

No probability, statistics, data analysis, calculus, matrix theory, etc.

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