I am a retired teacher who has spent 30 years in high school classrooms teaching physics, chemistry and physical science. In preparation, I had earned a bachelor of arts in psychology and a master of arts for teachers in physics. I also taught my two daughters to read, and there were two basic ideas behind my teaching, whether reading or science:

1) showing the kids concrete examples of what we were studying, instead of talking about them in abstract terms and;

2) breaking the topics or skills down into the smaller elements that they were composed of, and teaching those thoroughly and in a logical sequence. Also important in the process was using interesting demonstrations or representations that would illustrate or apply an idea or a skill.

You must be wondering how I got from this occupation to the study of the history of Japanese elementary education. Towards the end of my career, I encountered some translations of Japanese elementary math lessons which were so beautiful in the ways they applied the two teaching rules I had tried to use, that I had to learn more about them.

This led me to study, from 2007 to the present, related issues in Japanese culture, education and eventually the history of their education system. The primary findings centered around the professional practices of Japanese elementary teachers (specifically, research lessons and research groups) and certain key principles of teaching they had acquired from the United States as they set up their system in the 1870s.

These are dealt with in “The Common Sense of Copying” and the other essays on my website at www. dmstamm.org.