Intel Corp., working with LessonLabs Inc., has released a professional development package that includes demonstration videos showing instructional techniques typical in Japan, Hong Kong, and Switzerland, three of six countries that outscored the United States on the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS).

The Intel package is based on findings derived from a recent study of TIMSS, and algebra is the subject taught in the demonstration videos.

The study, called “Teaching Mathematics in Seven Countries: Results from the Third International Mathematics and Science (TIMSS) 1999 Video Study,” summarizes the teaching practices of 638 teachers from Australia, the Czech Republic, Hong Kong, Japan, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the United States.

Because these six other nations all outperformed the U.S. on previous TIMSS mathematics tests, researchers wanted to find out what American teachers could do to improve their results.

In each case, a teacher was videotaped for one complete lesson, and in each country, videotapes were collected throughout the school year to capture the range of topics and activities that can take place.

After systematically analyzing data collected from thousands of hours of videotaped lessons, researchers found that teachers from high-achieving countries do not use a single, common method for teaching mathematics. They also found that teaching practices in the United States differ remarkably from the way mathematics is taught in higher-performing countries.

Compared with other countries, Australia and the U.S. used a smaller percentage of problems that require students to make connections between mathematical facts, procedures, and concepts. Japan used the highest percentage (54 percent) of problems that emphasized making connections. The other countries ranged from 13 percent to 24 percent.

Also, Australian and American teachers tended to turn conceptual problems, where students have to think of what to do to find the answer, into procedural problems, where students simply follow directions to find the answer.

Based on the findings of the TIMMS Video Study, LessonLab and Intel are offering an online professional development course that highlights teaching techniques from teachers in Hong Kong, Japan, and Switzerland.

Thirty-five teachers have piloted this program, which is offered either as a six-week facilitated course with an optional university credit, or as a non-facilitated course that allows for self-paced learning but with no credit.

“After taking the TIMSS video course, I began to understand that there are many alternatives in teaching algebra”that I needed to gather questions that help my students make mathematical connections, to further develop their critical thinking skills,” said Joseph Sabol, a teacher with the Alvord Unified School District in Riverside, Calif.

LessonLab also is selling 28 videotaped lessons, complete with translations, on CD-ROM to help expose teachers to these practices. Unlike the online course, these CD-ROMs do not include curriculum.

See these related links:

TIMMS Video Study

LessonLab Inc.

Online course