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INFORMATION RE: JAPAN
Posted:
Jul 27, 1998 12:40 PM


Colleagues:
Some time ago I sent a note regarding changes being proposed in the Japanese school mathematics curriculum. The curriculum is being rethought due to a change from having school 6 days each week (half day on Saturday) to 5 days each week, beginning in the year 2002. My note was a translation to English of an article that appeared in the Asahi newspaper May 24, 1998.
I recently received the following information from a colleague in Japan. The report that is described below will be submitted to the Ministry of Education on July 29, 1998. It will likely be translated into English by the Ministry, but no date is available yet for when the English version will be available.
This is for your information.
Jerry Becker
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On June 22, 1998, the "Curriculum Council" submitted a report to the Minister of Education about the revision of the mathematics curriculum in Japan  this new curriculum would be implemented in the year 2002. With some modifications of the report, the Council will submit the final report in the near future.
The report is 108 pages and contains basic principles and specific changes proposed for kindergarten, elementary and secondary schools, and for special education schools.
Below is a translation to English of the principles and changes in mathematics.
Actually, this report is the one on which the Asahi newspaper based its article about the major changes being proposed for the mathematics curriculum on May 24, 1998. 
Elementary Mathematics, and Mathematics
A. Basic principles of change
(a) Throughout their study in elementary (16), lower secondary (79)and upper secondary schools (1012), students are helped to acquire fundamental and basic knowledge and skills regarding numbers, quantities, and geometrical figures to thereby form a basis of creativity such as looking at things from different points of view, thinking logically, appreciating ways of analyzing phenomena mathematically, and further developing their willingness to make use of them.
(b) In order to do so, the content of the mathematics curriculum is being changed so that students can proceed in their studies enjoyably and confidently by recognizing connections between mathematics and everyday life and solving problems spontaneously.
B. Specific matters of change
(Elementary school  Elementary mathematics)
By reducing educational content, children are helped to be able to engage in mathematical activities such as handson activity or insightful experiences with respect to numbers, quantities, and geometrical figures, to understand meanings of numbers, quantities, and geometrical figures, to enhance their ability to think, and to make use of them. Especially, since elementary school education serves as the base for their subsequent study, students are helped to consolidate fundamental and basic knowledge and skills by studying them repeatedly.
The content areas consist of "numbers and calculations," "quantities and measurements," "geometrical figures," and "quantitative relations." The content of "numbers and calculations" needs to be taught with greater emphasis since it constitutes the core of elementary mathematics. With regard to the arrangement of content in different gradelevels, "numbers and calculations" area needs to have special emphasis in the lower grades, and the areas "quantities and measurements," "geometrical figures," and "quantitative relations" should have increasing content as the grade level becomes higher.
(a) In "numbers and calculations," to help children to understand the meanings of numbers and calculations, to enrich their feelings about number size, and to have insight into the results of calculations, these need to be emphasized in teaching. In doing so, for example, the range and level of calculations, e.g., calculations of natural numbers and decimals having many digits, will have reduced emphasis, the introduction to decimals and fractions will be moved to the upper elementary grades, and content such as expressions using inequality symbols will be dropped.
(b) In "quantities and measurements," to help children to understand meanings of units of quantities, to enrich their feelings about quantity size, and to find areas and volumes of basic geometrical figures, these will be emphasized in teaching. In doing so, for example, content such as the surface area of cylinder and cone will be integrated into the the lower secondary school syllabus, and content such as the area of a trapezoid and polygon or change of units, which has been taught with emphasis, will be dropped.
(c) In "geometrical figures," to help children to grasp characteristics of figures and classify them, and to engage in geometric constructions and making figures, these will be emphasized in teaching. In doing so, content such as congruence and symmetry in plane figures, reduced and enlarged figures, or solid figure, e.g., cone, will be integrated into the lower secondary school syllabus, and content such as regular polygons will be dropped.
(d) In "quantitative relations," to help children to classify and arrange data according to different purposes, to analyze quantitative relations by expressing them with tables and graphs, these will be emphasized in teaching. In doing so, content such as expressions using letters, expressions of proportion and inverse proportion, and ways of investigating cases will be integrated into the lower secondary school syllabus, and content such as frequency distribution or value of ratio, which has been emphasized, will be dropped.
(Lower secondary school  Mathematics)
Students will be helped to be able to confidently understand fundamental and basic knowledge and skills regarding numbers, quantities, geometrical figures and so on, and to positively progress in their study through problem solving activities of finding and thinking about tasks on their own.
Content areas consist of "numbers and algebraic expressions," "geometrical figures," and "quantitative relations" as they stand.
(a) In "numbers and algebraic expressions," emphases will be put on developing students' basic abilities and attitudes, e.g., to deepen their understanding of the necessity of thinking with letters, or to read positively the meaning of algebraic expressions and to explain it in their own words. In doing so, for example, calculations of mathematical expressions using letters will receive reduced emphasis, and content such as inequalities in one dimension and one variable or the formula for the solutions of a quadratic equation will be integrated into the upper secondary school syllabus.
(b) In "geometrical figures," emphases will be put on developing students' abilities to express and think logically, e.g., finding tasks spontaneously, clarifying reasons for their solutions, or explaining their thinking coherently, and on the content of mathematical proofs. In doing so, for example, the content of similar figures will be moved to the upper grades so that students can learn proofs with sufficient time. For the same reason, content such as some properties of circles, e.g., angles formed by tangent and chord, which requires complicated thinking, or the center of gravity in triangles will be integrated into the upper secondary school syllabus, and content such as slicing a cube will be dropped.
(c) In "quantitative relations," emphases will be put on helping students to consolidate basic knowledge and abilities such as knowing ways of investigation regarding the change of quantities or ability to judge correctly how frequent an uncertain phenomenon occurs. In doing so, content such as arrangement of data, various phenomena and functions, as well as sample survey will be integrated into the upper secondary school syllabus, and content of expressions of numbers will be dropped.
(d) Problem situation learning needs to receive greater emphasis so that students can deepen their mathematical views and thinking through activities such as finding their own tasks or solving problems spontaneously.
(Upper secondary school  Mathematics)
Considering both the sequential nature of mathematics learning and the diversity of students' choices according to their ability, aptitude, and curiosity and interest, the organization and content of each subject will be changed as follows:
(a) Content areas consist of the following courses: "mathematics fundamentals," "mathematics I," "mathematics II," "mathematics III," "mathematics A," "mathematics B," and "mathematics C."
(b) The content of "mathematics fundamentals" will be organized with the aims at fostering students' curiosity, interest and so on in mathematics and recognizing and appreciating mathematical views and thinking.
Specifically, it will contain some historical topics of mathematics that are based on the content learned by students in lower secondary school mathematics, statistical analysis of phenomena in everyday life, and mathematical investigations related to daily life.
(c) The content of "mathematics I," "mathematics II," "mathematics III," and "mathematics A" is being reexamined and rearranged as follows:
In "mathematics I," as the subject of acquiring fundamental and basic knowledge in the upper secondary school mathematics and developing students' ability to make use of it, certain content which is moved from the lower secondary school will be taught by considering the connections with the lower secondary school mathematics. At the same time, part of the content currently taught in "mathematics I" will be moved to "mathematics A," and thereby "mathematics I" will be organized by the basic content such as calculations with numbers and algebraic expressions, functions, or geometrical figures and measurements.
In "mathematics II," as the course that follows "mathematics I," the content will include a wide range of topics such as functions, geometric figures, and expressions, by considering the learning sequence towards "mathematics III" and by providing students enough time to learn the content.
In "mathematics III," as the course that follows "mathematics II," the content will be organized, for example, by differential and integral calculus as its core, considering the fact that, in the main, students who want to learn advanced mathematics will take this course.
In "mathematics A," as the course to master basics for analyzing concrete phenomena mathematically, the content will be organized partly by the content moved from the lower secondary school syllabus, e.g., plane figures or probability, and partly by the content currently taught in this subject.
(d) In "mathematics B" and "mathematics C," the students can choose part of the content to study and it is organized as follows, according to students' ability and aptitudes, as well as their curiosity and interest:
"Mathematics B" is organized by content such as sequences, vectors, and computers and mathematics.
"Mathematics C" is organized by content such as probability distribution, statistics, and matrices.
(e) Students should take "mathematics II" after they take "mathematics I," and they should take "mathematics III" after they take "mathematics II."
(f) The ways of taking "mathematics A," "mathematics B," and "mathematics C" are as follows.
"Mathematics A" should be taken either in parallel with "mathematics fundamentals" or "mathematics I," or following them.
"Mathematics B" should be taken following "mathematics I."
"Mathematics C" should be taken following both "mathematics I" and "mathematics A
******************************************************************* Jerry P. Becker Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction Southern Illinois University Carbondale, IL 629014610 USA Fax: (618)4534244 Phone: (618)4534241 (office) Email: JBECKER@SIU.EDU



