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Amparo Bertram

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06:54 am: It's not the size...it's how you use it...
The algebra textbook arrived for the exchange student yesterday. The teachers were amazed when they saw it, and they stood around exclaiming over it for a while. (To the right, I've posted an image comparing the new textbook with the equivalent Japanese textbook.)

Math teacher 1: Look at this thing! It has color pictures inside! And just look at all the practice problems...

Me: You know, American high school students use about six of these, one for each subject.

Math teacher 1: Six!? You know, I heard from the exchange student that American high school students take six different math classes (pre-algebra, Algebra I, geometry, Algebra II, pre-calculus, calculus). Is that true?

Me: The ones who go to college generally do.

[Note: Japanese high schools don't place individual students into classes based on ability or preparedness. The entire homeroom takes the same class. Students may, however, be sorted into homeroom based on ability or future plans.]

English teacher: If you get a book like this, you should treasure it the rest of your life. ...It would be hard to carry home every day to do homework, though.

Me: ...Well...some people have cars, so at least they don't have to walk all the way home carrying the textbooks.

Math teacher 2: Wow... Do they really cover all this in one year?

Me: ...No.

Another interesting thing I learned is that students are allowed up to 1/3 of their days absent before they're in danger of failing. That means a student could miss three entire months of school and still pass. I was astounded. They REALLY don't like failing students.

Here's a picture of equivalent pages on the inside of the two textbooks. As you can see, the American version uses a lot more color, including full-color photographs, whereas the Japanese one is plain with only two-color graphs.



[User Picture]
Date:February 16th, 2006 06:02 pm (UTC)
That's an amazing difference...(although I bet American students would wish for the smaller textbooks! LOL)
[User Picture]
Date:February 17th, 2006 12:28 pm (UTC)

They are sooo heavy!

Sometimes I think the students here would appreciate the lighter books. I can't tell you how often they don't even take a book to class or home to study.

Even with all the color and the pictures, some students don't get it at all. They don't understand the concepts.

I wish it were the silver bullet that unlocked the wisdom of the universe, but, in the end, the student needs to engage his/her brain and wrap it around the idea and think about it. That doesn't always happen.
[User Picture]
Date:February 17th, 2006 10:36 pm (UTC)
There's another difference to consider:

Text books in the USA stay with the school. They get used by multiple classes over many years.

I'd personally rather have the Japanese kind. When I was a kid in Taiwan we bought those books ourselves and were expected to make annotations in them. It was very handy to own the book outright and be able to refer to them when needed. We just finished a fire drill here running all over town and to the libraries to find a book needed to complete some homework because the school didn't own enough copies for each child to have one for the weekend assignment.
[User Picture]
Date:February 19th, 2006 02:10 pm (UTC)
Text books in the USA stay with the school. They get used by multiple classes over many years.

That's true. The problem is, public schools in America can't require students to buy their own textbooks, because public education has to be free. And the schools are strapped enough for money as it is--they can't be handing out free textbooks in every subject to every student every year.

High school isn't mandatory in Japan, though, so even the public schools can cost quite a lot to attend.
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