Jump to content


Is the way math is taught in the USA different to the UK way?

Recommended Posts

Someone on the local home education yahoo group made a comment that the US homeschool math curriculums do not prepare children to switch over to the British way for high school. Typically kids here (in South Africa) do Cambridged IGCSE and AS-levels to gain university entrance.


He believes that the Amerikan approach to maths instruction is not adaptabtable to the British maths and that children find it difficult to make the transition. I'm assuming that the Australians will follow a more 'British' approach as we do.


Have you found this to be true at all?

If it is true, how is the maths instruction different?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here is my background before I comment:

I went through the NZ system (based on the British system). I have taught one child through high school on the NZ system and two on the American system.


I would agree with Rosie that it all evens out in the end but it is a problem if you want to swap systems part way through - in either direction.


You will see a lot of discussion on this board about the differences between Singapore math and US math - Singapore is also much like the UK syatem so the issues are similar. With Singapore, people tend to change after grade 6 or stick with it to the end. It is the high school sequence that is where the major timing differences show up.


In NZ maths was compulsory until year 12 (grade 11) and for most students that would have given them the equivalent of the US pre-calc. I chose to take 2 maths courses in year 13 (grade 12) - Calculus and Statistics. By that stage I think it had all evened out between the two systems.


If you want to do IGCSE etc (my DH currently teaches at a school that uses this system so I am somewhat familiar with it) I think you would want to change over somewhere between year 7 (grade 6) and year 9 (grade 8). Any later than that would be difficult.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree that it tends to even out by the end, however if you need to transition before that, it can be more tricky.

It was always a dilemma to me, because I wanted to use U.S. programs, or programs recommended by TWTM, but I also knew I couldnt guarantee that my kids would homeschool all the way through and i didn't want to disadvantage them.

So Maths is one area I looked for the best Australian programs I could find- and there are plenty, IMO. I used Singapore up until 6 for one an 5 for the other, too.

As Rosie says, they tend to spiral here and go over the same things at a deeper level each year. I don't really have a problem with that, and Australians do pretty well at maths internationally, so I used local programs. I think I would do the same again- we did change to MATH U SEE for my son for Pre Algebra because I felt it covered a wide enough range of topics and i was trying to find a program that supported him well. He is about to go to highschool for the first time, so we will see how appropriate my approach was- although he has never been a brilliant maths student.

I know people who just use Saxon here, though, and it hasn't been a problem because they have never gone to school.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

For a number of years, the school district here had both a traditional US math sequence side by side with a spiral approach. Different kids took different tracks. They did end up in the same place.


They ended up dropping the spiral track a few years back. I don't know why. Doing both was probably unsustainable in terms of the number of teachers needed. It did seem to me that the kids in the spiral approach just weren't as good at math, and that kids who were good at math that had started out in the spiral approach tended to switch to the traditional sequence sometime in high school. It is possible that the spiral program they were using just wasn't very rigorous.


However, it has always seemed to me that most math tends to review what came before -- it's all a spiral approach by its very nature. Geometry needs algebra I, algebra II needs geometry, trig needs algebra and geometry. And even the "traditional" US textbooks have lots of review and cover the same topics year after year (each time in more depth), so I've never seen that there was that huge of a difference between the two.


I've used both traditional US materials and MEP math (which is more "British" in approach?) with my kids. I don't think my kids noticed they were switching systems as we meandered back and forth.


So I agree with Heigh Ho -- it may not be the spiral vs US breakdown of math, but the actual method in which the math was taught.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am a former Elementary School teacher. There are so many curriculum at that level, and each local district chooses their own curriculum, so it is really not helpful to refer to it as "US math" or "American" math at that level. I have been in schools that use curriculum very much like MEP math, or Singapore math, and I've been in schools that used Saxon math, schools that use spiralling curriculum and schools that use mastery type programs. I have seen schools that used an almost entirely manipulative based math program, and others that use memorization with little or no "mental math".


"Secondary" or "high school" math is a bit more standardized in terms of the organization and methods used across the country, so you could say there is a "US model" at this level (as in a year of Algebra, a year of Geometry, etc.). But as those topics all build off of one another, I agree with the pp that this is much more of a spiral type method than people realize.


But, in America, up until 6th grade the methods and type of curriculum you will be exposed to depends on what school you attend, and/or what state you live in.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...