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

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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.”

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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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