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Reciprocal Learning for Cross-Cultural Mathematics Education

Sijia Cynthia Zhu, Shu Xie, Yunpeng Ma, and Douglas McDougall, eds.
Publication Date: 
Number of Pages: 
[Reviewed by
Jasmine Sourwine
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Reciprocal Learning for Cross-Cultural Mathematics Education is a collection of studies from the Reciprocal Learning in Teacher Education and School Education Between Canada and China Partnership Project. The project took place over the course of seven years, and the studies included in this book span this timeframe. The studies vary by the research question, school, region, teacher, and methodology, resulting in rich and diverse findings. 
The book primarily serves as a comparison of Eastern (based on Confucius) styles of mathematics education to Western (based on Socrates) styles of mathematics education. The topics range from curriculum design and a teacher's autonomy to best practices for teaching students mathematical problem-solving. The book discusses both countries' educational histories and teacher preparation in detail to understand the time, place, and space in which the studies took place. 
The audience that would benefit most from this book includes program designers for pre-service teachers, multi-cultural education curriculum designers, mathematics methods instructors, and mathematics educators in primary and secondary schools, though it is written simply enough to be understood by a much wider audience. Due to the comparing and contrasting nature of this book, it is suitable for readers in any country as it describes cultural differences in classrooms, and many studies describe two cultures' approaches to teaching the same mathematical content.  
The book positions itself as part of a series of books that focus on understanding how the Canadian educational institution can learn from Eastern educational philosophy and practices. This is in part because of China's consistently high-ranking scores in mathematics and part due to the large number of Chinese immigrants in Canada. The book aims to facilitate the reciprocal exploration and understanding of two different mathematic education philosophies. However, this book is not a "how-to" on shifting the culture of a classroom, nor is it intended to be proof that one approach to teaching is better than another. Rather, it highlights similarities and differences between how participating teachers from Canada and China approach topics in their different classrooms, as well as how their general classroom makeup impacts their decisions on a day-to-day basis. Though there are a few examples of lessons, this book is not a collection of Canadian and Chinese lesson plans to teach mathematical content.  
Though the book includes many different approaches to the topic, some stand out as especially interesting and meaningful. First, the Reciprocal Learning Between Teacher Pairs section of the book shows meaningful collaboration between Chinese and Canadian teachers and illustrates how teachers' cultural values and school expectations shape their classroom and approach to teaching. Second, the chapter on Meaningful and Sustainable Mathematics Education is fascinating in its attention to indigenous mathematics education. This chapter provided sample questions and approaches to responsibly educating this group of minoritized people while honoring their cultural background and funds of knowledge. 
Jasmine Sourwine is a Ph.D. student in mathematics education at Iowa State University. As a former secondary mathematics instructor, her research focuses on effective strategies to increase equity in mathematics classrooms.