UK vs. US: Who’s got the right way to teach math(s)?


A lot of things startled me when I started teaching in the UK. The accents. The ubiquity of tea. (As I like to say: “ubiquitea.”) The adorable and inexplicable pluralization of “math.” But what stunned me most was that the Brits don’t follow a sequence of math courses anything like ours.

You know the traditional American chain—Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry, and so on?

In Britain, they make no such distinctions. It’s all “maths.”


Now, we teachers know that we inhabit imperfect systems. (Some days, we feel like we know it all too well.) I don’t think you’d say we’re unduly attached to them. If you ask most British or American math teachers, “Does your country have a well-functioning educational system?” you’ll get anything from a cynical scowl to a bout of weeping.

But ask us, “Isn’t the other country’s structure better?” and you’ll witness a sudden and righteous swell of patriotism.

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