This paper reports the results of an international comparative study conducted in Switzerland and Japan of an elementary school mathematics lesson. The principal aim of the study was to advance understanding of the cultural specificities of a mathematics lesson in its totality using concrete examples of lesson design and implementation and of how cultural factors within and beyond the classroom/school shape and produce mathematics lessons in a particular country. We analysed two Grade 4 mathematics lessons designed and implemented in Switzerland and Japan by pre-service teachers in the context of a project-based international exchange programme. The lesson, initially designed collaboratively by the pre-service teachers of the two countries, was ultimately realised in different ways in each country. Specifically, we found differences between the Japanese and Swiss lessons in the structure of the lesson and validation of solutions. To elucidate these differences and identify the cultural factors that yield them, we analysed the resources developed and used during lesson design and implementation (lesson plans, official documents, and textbooks). Furthermore, we discuss three aspects of mathematics lessons that account for the main characteristics of each lesson: collective or individualistic teaching and learning, problem-solving lessons, and distance between theory and practice.
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