Chinese students’ good performance in mathematics PISA 2012 (Programme for International Student Assessment; OECD, 2013) is a phenomenon that attracted increasing interest world-wide. The reasons for these good results are mainifold and complex. Among others, they include sociocultural aspects (high societal importance dedicated to performance and effort, to collective thinking and enactment; high respect of mathematics), teacher education and recruitment (demanding selection, mathematics taught by mathematics teachers only), number of mathematics lessons taught at schools (higher than on PISA average), long tradition of bottom-up teacher movement aiming at self-determined quality assurance of teaching (teacher research groups, e.g. focusing on joint lesson planning), and sincere efforts to combine theoretical and practical dimensions of teaching (increasingly taking into account western theories and co-developing new theories like variation theory).
Two of the three following chapters directly refer to the good results regarding PISA. In one case, the authors stress that the consistent use of variation problems in textbooks and in classroom instruction provides strong support for students’ learning that may provide further explanation of Chinese students’ excellent performance. A second team of authors highlight that the success of pupils from Shanghai (ranked on first place in PISA 2012) made it important to understand how teacher learning takes place in Shanghai. All three chapters provide insightful cases showing how teaching and learning through variations can be used and implemented, with a particular focus on teacher professional development and curriculum development.
In the following, all three chapters are described shortly, in each case supplemented by some reflections from a western mathematics education perspective.