Posted by: Alexandre Borovik | April 16, 2010

International comparative study of future maths teachers

produced predictable results — read NYT. And here one of the problems used in the study:

[with thanks to muriel]



  1. The comments by the math ed people at the end of this article make me want to hit my head into the desk. “We show up pretty well here — right in the middle of the pack!” Way to have high expectations for yourselves.

  2. Robert, that comment was by the President of the NCTM according to the article. Not just some random math ed person. Mediocre is the new standard to achieve. There is far too much emphasis on education classes and not enough actual math.

  3. “80 percent to 100 percent of the future middle school teachers from the highest-achieving countries took advanced courses like linear algebra and calculus, while only 50 percent to 60 percent of their counterparts in the United States took those courses…”


    Where do I begin. No wonder the students did so horribly, they aren’t even taking INTRODUCTORY courses in maths!

    The further consequence is that they have no actual experience or even rough knowledge with real math like, oh, I dunno, abstract algebra, topology, analysis (and these barely scratch the surface). How can they enthusiastically teach math if they don’t have the slightest clue what it entails? How do they answer a student who asks “what can I do with a math degree in university?” when they don’t even have anything near what constitutes a math degree. At my university having all 3 calculus’s and a linear algebra won’t even get you a math minor.

    I presume their answer would be “teach math”, but this is probably the worst answer possible (seeing as it glosses over many other options that would be more interesting to some students).

    This frustrates me because my math education was quite lac-luster until I entered university, and I feel somewhat cheated personally. I was a gifted student but due to location and my parents funds I ended up in a public school.


  4. Oh, and the triangle sides should be 2, 2cos30 and 1.

    Funny how they give university students a problem at ~grade 11 or 10 level (maybe lower depending on where you live).

  5. The full study is at and – looking a bit further mostly confirms what the article says. One extra interesting point (based just on a very brief skim) is that at the lower secondary school (= middle school) level, Russia, Germany and Poland all move up the table from their positions at the primary (= elementary) level.

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