I am doing a foray into trying to differentiate for my very advanced Japanese student! He's awesomely hard-working, but I recently had a chat with him because I am concerned that he has already learned all of our Grade 8 topics in Japan, and he's concerned that he'll fall behind the curriculum in Japan. I actually noticed this much earlier this year, but he has just now gained enough basic English fluency to communicate academically, so I decided that now is a good time to start his individual math program.
Given that he's planning on moving back in two years to finish high school there, I think it's important to try to help him keep up with the Japanese curriculum. So, I asked him to bring me some Japanese math textbooks to give me a sense of what goes on in Grade 8 in Japan. I sat down today to take a look, and wow! It was tough stuff considering he's only in Grade 8! Since I obviously cannot read Japanese (I can read some Kanji, since they use Chinese characters, but it doesn't always mean the same thing), I did my best to cross check his geometry diagrams and the solution guide he gave me, to get a feel for what was given in each problem, what was expected, and what prior knowledge he must already have.
This is going to be my new pet project for Grade 8. I've got at least one other very bright kid in similar shoes, actually, who is transitioning back to a different curriculum after this year and wishes to be studying Geometry to supplement the algebra we are doing in class. So, for at least the two of them (and anyone else who wishes for the challenge), I am going to do my best to offer Japanese math problems as enrichment in our class. I think it'll be a great way to force the bright kids to work together and to support each other, and it will help our class appreciate math from other cultures!!! (We are an international school, after all.)
As for the Japanese kid in my class, the advantages are obvious -- I can help him bridge the gap between the curricula, and because I've translated the problems to English, he can receive my support in English, as well as develop a bilingual vocabulary, hopefully to be able to read the questions further on down the book on his own and translate for me what they're giving him and asking him to do!
And for me, this is also an exciting opportunity to take a look at math problems from another culture, to see what they consider "basic" and "difficult" and how they scaffold. I am very excited about this pet project! It's a win-win-win!
Here is the first Japanese problem set I translated/loosely scaffolded, if you're curious. I don't know what the day-to-day math pacing is like, but they do all this and MORE in one lesson in the textbook!!