Try and the Role of the Teacher

When learning about Japan Math’s curriculum, it’s essential to understand the importance behind each of the four major steps in our curriculum. We want our educators to feel empowered and to know how to best aid their students during every step of the Japan Math process.

Let’s start by understanding our first step, and the role of the teacher during it: Try!


In the first lesson of each unit in our Primary Math International Lesson Book, we ask our students to try. Students are instructed to work on a single problem that utilizes concepts that they have not yet been taught. In other words, they cannot simply apply what they have already learned to solve the problem.

Instead, they are asked to think outside of the box and figure it out on their own, without help from their teacher. Problem-solving in this manner, which asks students to blend old and new concepts, helps them reflect on what they have previously learned. This is where the student's prior learning and new learning meet. 

How Hard Are These Problems?

Problems in the "Try" step are related to everyday life. We’re passionate about making learning fun and applicable, so your students will see situations in these problems that are easily identifiable. Through solving problems that they can connect with, they will be more motivated to learn in the future.

These questions have a level of difficulty that is challenging but not nearly so difficult that your students will get frustrated from trying. The “Try” step aims to be the perfect blend of a solution that remains just slightly out of reach, but achievable through brainstorming and group work.

Group Work

The “group work” aspect is very important in the “Try” step. Once students solve a problem on their own, they are encouraged to share their ideas with their peers. The goal here is less about whether or not their answers are correct, but to encourage respectful and productive discussions about the work between the students and their classmates.

Once the students have had a chance to discuss the problem amongst themselves, it’s the teacher’s turn to facilitate discussion about various student solutions in the classrooms. Students will be eager to share their strategies, and it’s best if teachers encourage participation from everyone. Then, the class will work to solve the problem together, learning the new concept for the chapter.

Role of The Teacher in “Try”

In Japan, we have a slightly different understanding of a teacher’s role in a classroom. Japanese teachers sincerely believe in allowing a student to try to solve a problem on their own first, even if this means the student may struggle to find the solution. We believe that struggle is a major part of the learning process and creates a problem-solving muscle that only strengthens the more it is used. At Japan Math, we encourage our students to try and choose from a range of strategies and approaches to solve problems. Students are actively involved in deciding which mathematics tasks make sense to use, justifying solutions, and making connections to prior knowledge and experiences.

Contrary to the popular, "I do, you do, we do" method of teaching, we’re encouraging our Japan Math teachers and students to move away from rote memorization and focus more on strategy application and independent problem-solving. The role of the teacher in our classroom is to facilitate a conversation that moves students toward a shared understanding of mathematics.

“Try” in Action

Here is a sample “Try” lesson from Japan Math Corp's Primary Math International Lesson Book for G1. Students are given space to write their math sentence and also show their work in the "My Idea" section.

With Japan Math's focus on problem solving, your students are free to explore different ways to solve a problem. For example, 

This student has written out the math sentence and taken out 9 math blocks from their Student Math Block Kit to begin calculating.

Now, say another student used two sets of blocks and subtracted 1 from the 10 to make the 9 and then added 4 from the second set of blocks. The teacher then can explain why both ideas are correct and lead a continuing discussion with the class to see what other strategies were used, and about which method offered the quickest answer.

Our Goal with “Try”

The “Try” section’s goal is not to frustrate the students by giving them an impossible problem, nor is it for the students to find the correct answer every time. The “Try” section encourages the students to build on their previous skills, work together with their classmates, and find creative solutions to new concepts. If you’re interested in learning more about Japan Math’s style of learning, check out this video discussing how students can take ownership of their learning. If you’re thinking about trying out Japan Math in your own classroom, contact us here!