Bringing Math to China: Coals to Newcastle?
From May 13-21, 2011, Dr. Hal Melnick, a member of the Bank Street Graduate Faculty, provided professional development and support for teachers implementing progressive math programs at the Tsinghua International School in Beijing, China. Before he began his work, he had to justify and explain Bank Street’s progressive math approach to both the parents and the teachers in the primary and secondary schools.
The Challenge says Melnick: “My challenge was that on the latest international comparative tests, China far surpassed the United States. So both the teachers and the parents needed to know what this American program could do for their children, and to be reassured that their children were not being harmed by this ‘different’ math program.”
Melnick had been invited to Tsinghua by Debbie Kurtzberg, director of the Primary Division, and a 2009 Bank Street graduate.
“Parents needed to know that since 1990 the Chinese Ministry of Education has stipulated that children be able to apply their math learning to open-ended problems like those I did with them. My research on this leads me to conclude that our progressive constructivist math programs (very different from the traditional math generally taught in United States classrooms) is a healthy marriage between ancient Chinese approaches and the new market economy demands for new hires in China,” says Melnick.
Melnick adds: “While some might think we were bringing coals to Newcastle with our math program, I think our ‘coals’ actually fueled a fresh approach that can engage more students in successfully learning math.”