Creative Education
2013. Vol.4, No.4, 259-262
Published Online April 2013 in SciRes ( DOI:10.4236/ce.2013.44038
The Textbook Analysis on Multiplication:
The Case of Japan, Singapore and Thailand
Suttharat Boonlerts1, Maitree Inprasitha2,3
1Department of Mathematics Education, Faculty of Education, Khon Kaen University, Khon Kaen, Thailand
2Center for Research in Mathematics Education, Khon Kaen University , Khon Kaen, Thailand
3Centre of Excellence in Mathematics, Commis s i o n of Higher Education in Thailand (CHE), Bangkok, Thailand
Received January 29th, 2013; revised February 28th, 2013; accepted March 15th, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Suttharat Boonlerts, Maitree Inprasitha. This is an open access article distributed under the
Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any
medium, provided the original work is properly c ite d.
This paper analyzes the presentation of multiplication in elementary textbooks from Japan, Singapore and
Thailand. The methodology consisted of content analysis comparing the overall structure and sequence of
topics and how to introduce the meaning of multiplication. We identified both similarities and differences
among the three countries.
Keywords: Multiplication; Mathematics Textbook; Content Analysis; Comparative Study
This paper presents an analysis of the presentation of multi-
plication in elementary textbooks from Japan, Singapore, and
Thailand. Textbooks from these Asian countries were targeted
because these counties represent different levels of perform-
ances in the TIMSS (1995, 1999, 2003, 2007); Singaporean and
Japanese students performed well, while Thai students per-
formed poorly. Thus, this study is aimed at investigating the
features of textbooks, which Fan & Zhu (2007) mentioned that
the teachers and students used with an underlying belief that
textbooks played an important role in the process of teaching
and learning.
Various researches have revealed that the teaching ap-
proaches adopted by classroom teachers and embodied in text-
books used in their classrooms are often highly alike (e.g.
Bierhoff, 1996; Brown, 1973; Fan & Kealey, 2000; Fujii, 2001;
Fan & Zhu, 2007).
“Multiplication” was widely discussed among the mathe-
matics education research groups as a difficult topic in the cur-
riculum (Anghileri, 1989; Bell et al., 1989; Graeber & Tanen-
haus, 1993; Behr et al., 1994; Confrey & Smith, 1995; Chung
& Lew, 2007; Mulligan & Mitchelmore, 1997; Irwin, 2004).
Gelman (1999) suggested that multiplicative concepts are not
among the naïve mathematical concepts learned by all. Piaget
(1985, 1987 cited in Irwin, 2004) asserted that multiplication is
more complex than addition, as it involves implicit quantifica-
tion. Students who operate multiplicatively know that there is a
certain quantity in each of the numbers multiplied, but do not
need to refer to the individual items or numbers in a group.
The study examined elementary textbooks from Grades 1 - 3,
and similarities and differences in the presentation of multipli-
cation in elementary mathematics textbooks in three countries
were documented. It addressed the following question: When
and how is multiplication introduced and developed?
In this section, the study describes the selection of textbooks
chosen for examination and the conceptual frameworks used to
analyze the presentation of multiplication in these books.
Selection of Textbooks
Three elementary mathematics textbook series from Japan,
Singapore, and Thailand were chosen for this study. These
three countries come from East Asia and South East Asia.
Singapore is one of the Asian countries where the students
always score well. In 1995, 1999 and 2003, students from Sin-
gapore were ranked number one in the world and fell to third
place in 1997. Japanese students ranked 3rd in 1995, 5th in
1999, 3rd in 2003 and 5th in 2007. Thai students ranked 22nd
in 1995, 27th in 1999, and 29th in 2007 respectively. The over-
all score consistently was below average in every assessment
despite the changing composition of participating countries
with each study (TIMSS, 1995, 1999, 2003, 2007).
Thailand sets a national curriculum, and a single textbook se-
ries is used throughout the country. The Ministry of Education
distributes the mathematics textbooks used in Thailand, which
is developed by the Institute for the Promotion of Teaching
Science and Technology (IPST).
Japan also sets a national curriculum, but six commercial
textbook series are available for use in the schools (Alajmi,
2011). In Japan, private companies publish the textbooks,
which are based on the Course of Study and the Accompanying
Teaching Guide published by the Ministry of Education (Isoda,
2010). All textbooks must pass through the textbook authoriza-
tion process that is overseen by the Textbook Authorization
Council. At present, there six publishers offer mathematics
textbooks for elementary and a lower range of secondary
schools (Shimizu & Watanabe, 2010).
Copyright © 2013 SciRe s . 259
Singapore is similar to many other Asian countries; the Min-
istry of Education (MOE) develops and issues a national
mathematics curriculum (syllabus), and all schools are required
to follow the syllabus in teaching, learning, and assessment.
Accordingly, textbooks must align with the syllabus. All school
textbooks in Singapore first must be reviewed and approved by
an evaluation committee appointed by the Ministry of Educa-
tion (Fan, 2010).
For Japan and Singapore, textbooks in this study were se-
lected from one publishing company and based on their wide
use by schools. These Japan textbooks were translated into the
Thai Language in 2009. This Thai version has been in use in
the 22 Schools participating in the Research project. The Sin-
gapore textbooks, which are published in English, have been
used in some Thai bilingual schools In total, the following 14
mathematics textbooks from the three countries were examined
in this study: in Japan, five Mathematics for Elementary School
for grades 1 - 3 published by Gakkoh Tosho were selected; in
Singapore, six “My Pals Are Here” (2nd ed.), published by
Marshall Cavendish Education (2010) were selected for first to
third Grades, in Thailand, three mathematics textbooks are
provided for first to third Grades and published by IPST.
Conceptual Frameworks
Two conceptual frameworks were used to analyze the pres-
entation of multiplication in mathematics textbooks through
content analysis reported Son & Senk (2010). These analyses
focused on aspects of the textbooks Overall structure (number
of units or lessons and sequence of topics)
The analysis of the textbooks’ content focused on the prob-
lem situations in multiplication in each textbook. Using Greer’s
the classes of situations involving multiplication and division of
integers: equal groups, multiplication comparison, Cartesian
product, and rectangular area (Table 1). This study analyzed
problems in the entire textbook.
The study examines the overall structure and sequence of
topics in the textbooks and the general format of each lesson.
The Overall Structure and Sequence of Topics
In each country, all the textbooks in grades 1 - 3 present
number and operation (addition subtraction, multiplication,
division of whole number), geometry (shape, volume, length,
mass) and table and graph. Only the Singapore series contains
different content in the textbook such as fractions, area and
perimeter, perpendicular and parallel lines.
The Thai textbooks present a chapter on multiplication in
each grade (2nd and 3rd grades) and have one chapter that be
related, is review, word problem and making problem of addi-
tion, subtraction, multiplication and division. Singapore and
Japanese textbooks consist of several chapters in each grade.
For example, Japanese textbooks for second grade consists of
(1): expression as a multiplication sentence, multiplication (2):
The 2×, 5×, 3× 4× multiplication table, multiplication (3): the
6×,7×,8×,9×, 1× multiplication table, and multiplication (4):
multiplication game, multiplication table. Similarly, Singapore
textbooks consist of several chapters for multiplication in each
The Japanese and Thai textbooks begin teaching multiplica-
tion in the second grade whereas Singapore textbooks introduce
multiplication in the first grade.
In the Japanese second grade textbooks, the sequences of
topics in multiplication are: learning unit 1; the meaning of
multiplication, multiplication sentence, unit 2: the multiplica-
tion tables of 2, 5, 3, 4, unit 3: multiplication tables of 6, 7, 8, 9,
1, and unit 4: multiplication table, multiplication game. In sum-
mary, the learning units of multiplication are organized as the
meaning of multiplication, multiplicands, multipliers, and mul-
tiplication table. The laws of calculation (commutative, asso-
ciative, and distributive), algorithm and the rules of multiplica-
tion are introduced in the elementary mathematics textbooks.
In the Singapore textbooks, the meaning of multiplication is
introduced through the use of equal-sized groups and arrays.
The chapter is divided into small topic, such as in first grade,
making multiplication stories and solving word problems. In
second grade, the meaning of multiplication is defined by re-
lating to whole number system through many representations,
including equal-sized groups, array, and equal “jumps” on
number line for multiplication. Students learn the basic multi-
plication facts and computation. Singapore textbooks follow the
following sequences: the topic of multiplication tables of 2, 3, 4,
5 and 10 in second grade and multiplication tables of 6, 7, 8 and
9 in third grade. They use the properties of addition and multi-
plication (commutative, associative and distributive properties,
without being named) to multiply in the whole numbers system
and apply increasingly sophisticated strategies with these prop-
erties to solve multiplication and division problems involving
the basic facts. By comparing the variety of solution strategies,
students set multiplication and division as inverse operations.
Thai textbooks begin teaching multiplication in the second
grade. There are 46 pages in the chapter on multiplication, with
the introduction of the meaning of multiplication making up
approximately 8.7% and the procedural rules of multiplication
takes up 50%. In the third grade the emphasis is on procedural
rules and obtaining results (Table 2). Thai textbooks have a
sequence of topic of multiplication tables of 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
and 9 in the second grade. In second grade and third grades
they emphasize procedural calculation.
Meaning Given to Multiplication
The content analysis of the multiplication content found that
Japanese, Singapore and Thai textbooks have similar and dif-
ferent issues in the sequence of introducing multiplication,
meaning of multiplication. It can be summarized as follows
(Table 3).
Singapore and Thai mathematics textbooks are similar in in-
troducing the meaning of multiplication through equal group
with repeated addition, while Japanese mathematics textbooks
start with presenting the description of multiplication through
equal group, then presenting repeated addition later.
The results of the content analysis indicate that Japanese
textbooks devoted more pages to multiplication than Thai and
Singapore textbooks. However, the percentage of pages is not
enough to justify the importance of multiplication topic in the
textbook. Other aspects of the textbook were analyzed. While
Singapore textbooks begin teaching multiplication in the first
grade, Thai and Japanese textbooks begin in the second grade.
Japanese and Singapore mathematics textbooks emphasized the
Copyright © 2013 SciRe s .
Copyright © 2013 SciRe s . 261
Table 1.
The classes of situations involving multiplication of integers (Greer, 1992).
Type of
situation Description Example
The mathematization of cases of natural Replication n people have 5n fingers
Repetition of a sequence of actions Taking three s teps four times
Equal grou ps
Human practices such as giving the same number of
objects to a number of people. The equal-groups
situation is in terms of a rate.
If there are 4 cookies per child, how many do 3
children have?
Multiplication comparison n times as many as
John has 3 times as many apples as Mary. Mary has 4
apples. How many apples does John have?
Cartesian product If 4 boys and 3 girls are dancing, how many different
partnerships are possible?
Rectangular area
The rectangle with integer side s , say 4 cm by 3 cm. On the
rectangular array, such a diagram bears an obvious simi-
larity to the physical arrangement of m n objects in a
rectangular array with m rows and n columns.
Table 2.
The number of ch apters and pages on mul tiplication in each book series by grade.
Number of chapters and pages on multiplication in each
book ser i es by grade Japan Singapore Thailand
Grade 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3
Number of chapters in the bo ok 13 17 15 19 17 18 14 12 12
Number of pages in text book 124 184 208 269 310 310 284 250 254
Number of pages in text book - 4 3 1 4 3 - 2 2
Number of pages in multiplicatio n - 57 47 9 63 34 - 51 46
Percent of pages with multiplication - 30.9 22.6 3.3 20.3 11 - 20.4 18.3
Table 3.
The analysis of types of multiplication
Countries Types of situatio ns
Japan Equal grou p , rectangular array, and multiplica ti ve
Singapore An equal gro up and recta ng ul ar array
Thailand Equal group
topics on the meaning of multiplication, the multiplier and mul-
tiplicand distinction, and the multiplication tables. By contrast,
Thai textbooks emphasized operations and manipulation of
Through situation analysis, it was found that there are three
kinds of situations, equal group, rectangular array, and multi-
plicative comparison, in Singapore textbooks, two kinds of
situations, equal group and rectangular array in Japanese text-
books, and only one kind of situation, equal group, in Thai
textbooks. Kouba and Franklin (1993) point out “It is crucial
that children in grades K-4 have experience with a wide range
of multiplication and division situations. The rank of situations
should be expanding.” Greer (1992) found that the most impor-
tant class situations involving multiplication and division of
integers include: equal groups; multiplication comparison; Car-
tesian product; rectangular area.
Japan and Singapore have always ranked high in mathemat-
ics achievement in international assessments such as TIMSS
and PISA (Singapore participated in PISA for the first time in
2009) for more than a decade, while Thailand, like many other
non-affluent countries has been ranked below average. Com-
paring what teachers teach and what students learn in those
countries will provide useful information to improve mathe-
matics instruction in Thailand and other countries facing similar
This research is (partially) supported by the Centre of Excel-
lence in Mathematics, the Higher Education Research Promo-
tion and National Research University Project of Thailand,
Office of the Higher Education Commission, through the Clus-
ter of Research to Enhance the Quality of Basic Education, the
Office of the Higher Education, Graduate School Khon Kaen
University, Center for Research in Mathematics Education, Khon
Kaen University, Thailand for supporting by grant fund under
the program Strategic Scholarships for Frontier Research Net-
work for the Ph.D. Program Thai Doctoral degree Commission
for this research
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