It is claimed that mathematics is universal and this book is powerful evidence of that claim. If you replace the names of the authors of the primary textbooks and the occasional culturally contextual term, this book could have been written by Americans about American mathematical education. Generally restricted to what Americans would call K–12 mathematics education, the topics of what to cover, how long to spend, when topics should be covered, and the sequence of presentation completely mimics the debates in the United States.
For example, there is a chapter with the title “On Algebra Education in Russian Schools” with a subsection called “Methodological Issues in Teaching Algebra” that covers the grades 5–9 (ages 10–15). Sample problems for various topics are given and these problems could be lifted out and pasted into every basic algebra text used in the United States with no alteration other than the occasional replacement of the metric measure with the English one.
The only point of significant difference occurs when the author recounts the history of the Russian (Soviet) nation. The revolution of 1917 completely changed the social and political structure of the nation. More recently the consequences of the introduction of perestroika and the subsequent fall of the communist system are discussed.
With all of the negative commentary about the problems of the American educational system, it was refreshing to read about some of the similar problems and issues in Russia, traditionally a powerhouse in mathematics education.
Charles Ashbacher splits his time between consulting with industry in projects involving math and computers, teaching college classes and co-editing The Journal of Recreational Mathematics. In his spare time, he reads about these things and helps his daughter in her lawn care business.