Daily Archive for April 28th, 2007

Why Asians are Better at Math

Dave Chen wrote a thought-provoking post entitled “Why Asians are Better at Math.

He cites a BBC article which compares questions from British and Chinese math tests. Says the article:

A glance at the two questions reveals how much more advanced is the maths teaching in China, where children learn the subject up to the age of 18.

Dave uses his own experiences as an Asian American to speculate upon the reasons he believes Asians are better at math:

  1. Their parents
  2. Their curricula are the hardest in the world
  3. Their schools are oppressive, draconian environments from which there is no escape

While I do agree with Dave’s assessment overall, I wonder if there is more to it? One article suggests that Chinese language and English language speakers calculate problems differently; that language seems to have a role in this. We could probably make this list miles long, but I think a key factor missing from the list is effort. I think Asians just try harder and put in more effort (than say Americans). Yes, that may because their parents expect them to, because the of the level of the curriculum, as well as the oppressive school systems… the end result is more effort put into math, in my opinion.

Heck, remove something as subjective as effort, what about time? I’m sure we could pull up studies about how many more hours Asians spend in school, doing homework, or even practice calculations. (Did you ever have to do practice calculations? My Mom used to buy math workbooks and made us do tons of problems on top of our regular homework.)

(On a sidenote, Dave’s post has 732 diggs as of right now and a ton of comments there… first comment: “Too bad math doesn’t help when you’re behind the wheel.” An Asian driver joke. Nice.)

I’m sure there’s more I’m not even thinking of right now. What other reasons contribute to Asian excellence in math?
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