Friday, April 27, 2007

Why Asians Are Better At Math

A recent BBC News story compared two questions, one from a Chinese math test and one from a math test from the UK. The difference was fairly astonishing. Chinese people are good at math to an extent we never imagined possible. And this could have staggering implications in the near future, as China continues its ascent as a major economic power:

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, the society says. Science undergraduates in England are likely not to have studied maths beyond GCSE level at the age of 16, it says.
Now see if you can do the problems:

It's a fact: If world power were determined by math skills alone, then we'd already be worshipping our new Asian imperial overlords. But why are Asians better at math? I can only offer one Asian-American's perspective.

Awhile ago, there was a news story picked up by the Washington Post and many other major news outlets. Here's the Washington Post headline: "For Math Students, Self-Esteem Might Not Equal High Scores." The article said, in part:
The international test results from 2003 and related surveys from 46 countries show that the world's most confident eighth-grade math students are found in the Middle East, Africa and the United States. Of the 10 countries with the highest levels of student confidence, only Israel and the United States scored higher than average on the international test, and their scores were far below those of the much less confident students in Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
In other words, even though United States students felt better about themselves, they did worse than other countries (in particular Japan and Korea) in which students thought they sucked at math, didn't enjoy math very much, but scored well nonetheless. Although the article explores the question of whether or not we should even be striving for higher scores if it means a harder-edged approach, I'd like to talk from personal experience, about why there's might be this difference in the first place.

I grew up in a major suburb in New England. Although I went to public school, a good 10-20% of the graduating class went to Ivy League colleges. There was a major Asian population in my school; when I was a senior, one of my honors classes had 15 people, 13 of which were Asians. This is the perspective I speak from, when I give these reasons why Asians are better at math:

1) Their parents - My parents are immigrants. From a cultural perspective, they carried over a lot of their cultural hangups with them when they came here. I had a lot of Asian friends when I was growing up. One common thread that united us, in addition to our Asianness, was the fact that whenever we misbehaved, or whenever we went home with a bad grade, our parents disciplined us. A common Asian story is that when you bring home a report card with 5 A's and 1 A-, your parents will ask you "Why didn't you get that 6th A?" Then next semester, bring home 6 A's, and your parents will ask you "Why didn't you get all A's last semester?" Perfection was the goal, yet always out of reach.

Many of us came from homelife that valued achievement above all else. Our parents immigrated here in search of a better life. Despite considerable cultural and linguistic barriers, they were able to carve out a place for themselves. Consequently, they expected the same sort of perserverance, the same sort of excellence, the same sort of triumph from us, and often they would get it. They certainly didn't blow smoke up our asses.

Oftentimes, when we were young, our parents beat us. It was just a way of life. Sometimes they would get creative and use objects around the house (e.g. a coat hanger). As barbaric as this sounds, many of us considered it a valuable part of our upbringing. It set boundaries for us, gave us discipline, and instilled in us a desire to work hard. Today, we have friends, have jobs, etc. There is no festering mental illness as a result of these beatings; only an occasional fear of coat hangers (j/k).

I think child abuse is a terrible thing. I read A Child Called It too, and some parents clearly have mental problems in the way that they treat their kids. But in American culture, beating your kids, as a general proposition, is strongly looked down upon. Even Tony Soprano doesn't do it, and is ashamed of himself for the one time that he did! There's a difference between child abuse and child discipline. I'm a strong advocate of child discipline is all I'm saying.

Setting boundaries and not being an enabler can only be a good thing. See this video by hilarious comedian Russell Peters for a nuanced treatment on the subject:

(From Youtube user arommendahl)

2) Their curricula are the hardest in the world - As we've already seen from earlier in this post, the expectations levelled on Asian students are beyond compare, in terms of the "hard" sciences and subjects. In Asia, students are expected to shoot for the moon, especially in math and science. Yet there aren't that many that aspire to be poets, filmmakers, or WWE professional wrestlers. Why do you think the most prolific, talented people in those areas come from the United States? Because in America, we try to value those creative aspects of the human psyche as much as any of the others. In China and Taiwan, they value cold, hard skills.

3) Their schools are oppressive, draconian environments from which there is no escape - Some kids here think 180 days/year for school is a lot. You ain't seen nothing. Schools in China and Taiwan are akin to oppressive regimes. School is run virtually year round with 10-12 hour days not uncommon. This in fact is one of the reasons why my parents brought me over here; they wanted me to grow up with schools that would encourage freedom and creativity rather than regimented discipline.

These factors make Asians better at math and science. But does it make them better, holistically speaking?

I think there's no good answer for the question (and let's be honest; it's not a very good question to begin with). In the end, we've seen that Asians are better at math...but they might grow up feeling like their math skills are worthless. Is that necessarily better? I don't think so; I think it just makes us all different.

For every smart, friendly Asian person you encounter there may be another socially maladjusted one. For every good thing that comes with having sky-high test scores, there's something I could point out that's bad. In the end, it just makes us all (whether we're white, black, brown, red, yellow, etc.) different, disparate parts of the wonderful, brilliant tapestry of humanity that are trying to find some kind of peace, some kind of bond, in America.

Any thoughts?


MikeT said...

I think a large part of our problem is that we are hooked onto the myth that the public school systems work in the U.S. Every public school I have been exposed to has been more of a daycare center at best. It also doesn't help that we have abysmally low standards for teachers, and that schools cater to the maladjusted morons who create trouble.

Anonymous said...

I'm asian (Sri lankan) and moved to the US in about the 6th grade. When i came here, my math levels were about 4 years ahead of what people were doing in the US.
Though we were taught this stuff at such a high level, the stress that is put on you at those schools makes you hate life. I was lucky cause my parents never pressured me to learn, but I knew of some kids that were pressured by parents, and I even know of one that hung himself when he got a B on a test. This is just ridiculous, so IMHO, I think the US should step up their math programs jsut a bit more, but still allow for the freedom and creativity that actually makes school fun here.

Sorin said...

If you think Asians are good, you haven't seen Eastern Europeans (ex-soviet Russia + Romania) yet.

Dave said...

Schools need bigger classes! Classrooms should hold 80 students, not 20. Don't pay the teachers $35k/yr, pay them $140 and hire only a 4th of them. People need to get the idea out of their head that smaller classes are better. Those that need extra help don't need high-level extra help, they can get tutoring from other students or lesser-paid teachers. Pay the teachers for our public schools well, the standard for teachers will rise and so will the standard for students!

PakG1 said...

Well written and balanced. I've thought about this issue for years, and I think you hit all of the key points.

Anonymous said...

DAVE aren't you contradicting yourself?what you think when u pay peanuts to teachers?you'll get monkeys....and what happens then?The standard of teaching by those teachers will drop and inherently the students. Plus the size of the classroom is very important, with a high student to teacher ratio, you think the teacher can effectively managed the progress of each student? I'm an Asian from Singapore, an I can tell you that it is not that the Asian Students are better in Maths, its just that the standard of teaching for Math in non-Asian countries are getting lower. The solution is to increase the standard by implementing new techniques and reviewing the current curriculum.

Anonymous said...

The disparity between confidence and actually ability reminds me of a study in which people who listened to talk radio (Rush Limbaugh) as their primary source for news and current event information, were shown to have the highest level of confidence about the accuracy of their knowledge, but were also shown to have the most outright incorrect information about reality. No surprise.

Anonymous said...

Sorry I have to anonymous...
Anyways, even though the Chinese expectations are much higher for their students I believe the biggest problem in America is the fact that we don't want to work for things and would rather blame the school system. Take myself as an example, I am going through regular kentucky public school (senior at Simon Kenton High School) in USA and even though some of my teachers have been very poor I was still able to solve the example problem and submit the solution successfully. Pride/Attitude is the biggest hurdle in the American way of life, I am born American, raised American, and a proud American; but that doesn't mean I don't have to put a lot of effort into my studies.
It almost makes me sad to be grouped into the same crowd of people who say it's because there teachers are not good enough. Get off your ass and do something about it without shifting blame.

sathigher said...

I have three sons who I never needed to beat as they already thought I was crazy enough to kill them. So they towed the line. Two are in college and one is in fifth grade. They are well adjusted, smart kids who also know how to have fun and have excelled at several sports. They have heard the steady drumbeat of "it's looks much better to be smart than dumb son," and they have bought into it. The fifth grader is in trouble this year as he has three As and one B and two weeks to redeem himself.

I do not depend on the school system alone to educate my kids. I ask for, and get results. There is nothing wrong with America's schools that couldn't be easily fixed. After all, what the average school spends on lawn care could have taken care of all the expenses at my high school in Jamaica for one year. More money will never solve the problems. Parents who decline to shelter their kids will. And those parents who run the wishy-washy school boards that set soft curriculums need to get out of the way of professional teachers.
It's time to stop treating our children like poor little darlings and start demanding they earn the videogames, bikes, and big screen TVs we throw at them.

Anonymous said...

thats bullshit. the only difference between the US, UK, Israel students and say, Chinese students, is the fact their governments dont invest shit in education.. i'm from israel. i studied an entire subject and passed it after 3!! days of studying (thats with the final exam). and its not even one of my better subjects.
my mom immigrated to here from romania, and fyi, in communist romania, and all communist governments, they invested alot in education. she had the same thing - she already studied most of the math stuff in elementary school.
over here, you can study, as a normal student, the entire subject in 3-4 months or less, go to the final exam and ACE IT. the education system just disrespects the students intelligence. they just want good scores to show off with.
i have no problem with no one stressing me about not getting perfect scores over here. i learned to like the subjects and plan to enjoy them (..continue studying them) after school. i doubt i wouldve been in a similar spot if someone ran around me asking me to get perfect scores. more than that, that kind of "culture" invented a new psychological problem, almost unique to asia, hikikomori people. people who are so stressed about school, they just quit it.

Abhinav Sharma said...

Its not about the money. The Indian education system is one of the worst funded in the world, yet the standards are very similar to those in China as certainly tougher than the US or UK, especially if you intend to give entrance examinations to engineering.

They money isnt here, but why is it tough, because the best institutes have a selection ratio of under 1%, that's the cut-throat competition you have to survive, and for that, you have to be good.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I wonder if differences between Asian and American scientists occur because some Asians hate learning after enduring years of high-pressure education. While it's very important to have a broad education, having a sincere motivation to explore and imagine is equally important. I am not advocating underchallenging curricula as many American schools frequently are, but the mere quantity of knowledge should not be mistaken for good scholarship.

Anonymous said...

Math skills aren't everything. I work with two Chinese graduate students in a soil mechanics laboratory. They are both very bright and very adept at arithmetic analysis and application of mathematics but are absolutely terrible when it comes to independent reasoning and creativity. Ask them to analyze data and determine a pattern or derive a function to describe it and they are off and running. Ask them to write correspondence to a manufacturer or client or put together anything requiring creativity and they come unhinged, it seems. I am happy to work with them, but sometimes I really wish I was working with more creative individuals who were capable of at least some semblance of autonomy. This is not a indictment of their character or race, obviously - since I believe math and science transcend those barriers to a degree - it's a criticism of the system that supplied their education. When you have two brilliant grad students who need to be micromanaged and have their hands held by an undergrad during simple tasks, it's possible that that educational system may be flawed in some ways.

Vincey said...

yeah, my parents used coathangers on me! Once, I tried to hide all of the coathangers in the was funny when they were looking for them, but then they found them, and it wasn't so funny anymore =\

Sridhar said...

Well said. I'm an America and I feel the same. Indians (or I guess Asian) education stresses alot on competition.. but here I have seen that the stress is more on learning.. the quality is bound to be lesser in the latter case but is definitely more enjoyable for the student.

The maths sum that you have posted were elementary problems in a standard 8/9 Indian textbook...and i knew more calculus in standard 11 than people know here in their Masters.

The GPA system in US is another reason, it quantifies the crowd into 4 grade points.. so there is no incentive/reward in being the best or being the second best.. everyone gets the same grade anyway. I remember people fighting to get .5 marks on a scale of 100 to get an edge. I think being competitive makes us more ready to face the world.

I guess Russian educational standards are pretty high too. Any body who has solved Krotov/Irodov for physics would approve of that.

White People Just Don't Understand said...

some of this is true, but I don't like how you reinforce stereotypes as if Asian parents don't care about their children - this is very misleading. I have to say that the beating (I'm not for physical punishment) but I have to say that there are more Caucasian children then Asian children that are just completely crazy because "grounding" just doesn't work. I mean those White kids, so to speak, basically are nuts - there parents think reprimanding their children is barbaric and instead they just let their kids do whatever the hell they want.

Anonymous said...

I am an asian was born in the US and I thought my math skills were excellent. I then saw how much they sucked when I began working with some Chinese Software Engineers. They had excellent math skills and memorization. But they were not perfect. On almost every project I had to lead them, they had little if any creativity so it was difficult for them to approach *new* problems. If they couldn't find the solution in a book or by googling it they were at a complete lost.

dcairns said...

I feel like you overlook the fact that there are ~1.2B people in China, and probably fewer spots in colleges (I'm guessing here). Naturally, only the brightest of the brightest will get in (and thus the bar to admission must be set much higher than we have here). I do agree that the US needs to step up its math programs a little bit, but overall, we gain a lot from having a much more diverse education experience. See also: this article.

James said...

You forgot an important addendum to item one regarding the beatings. In some Asian countries (at least in China and Korea), it's not just your parents that will beat you. Your TEACHERS can and will beat you as well!

Google "korea teachers corporal punishment" to read evidence of it.

And actually this should lead to a discussion of Confucian doctrine ingrained in many Asian countries that place an incredibly high value on education and teachers.

Anonymous said...

Mat (Indian, born in the US)
Well... I liked the ideas that were put forth in the article...

Reading through the comments, I see a lot of good ideas, and a general agreement concerning the abyssmal state of Math/Science education in the States. How many times I've had this argument with immigrant friends of mine from different places (ex-Soviet, Asia)! In the 50's, the US was convinced we had the best students and education... until the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1 into orbit... it was a major wake-up call. Sadly, Americans have forgotten that we COULD very well be world leaders in math and science if we cared about it as much as we care about the Brittany's and Angelina's of celebritydom. It's a downright shame. Even worse, the teacher's unions have a strangle-hold on the educational system, and have led many to believe that the way it's done in America is the best way for students, even though our test scores show the exact opposite. I wish I had a solution... the only idea I can think about is having higher standards for entry-level teachers, coupled with educational vouchers a la Europe... the John Stossel documentary on this was one-sided, but for the most part, right on point. Americans should want so much better for themselves and their children.

Anonymous said...

i'm an electrical engineer. i didn't go to a particularly good skool or anything like that but i was the highest ranked american in my graduating class. i can testify that the international students show up with math skills that many americans, myself included, can only dream about. however good you think your English vocabulary is compared to theirs... their math vocabulary is at least twice as good. plus, life is hard outside this country. slaving over a shovel is a good sight worse than slaving over a book or computer. believe me, they've learned that lesson by the time they get here.

i can't say enough about how hard they work. i was lucky and fell into a study group that was about half international students. i had no choice but to work my a** off to keep up.

Shane said...

It has been suggested that math is treated as an important subject in Asia because math is an "international language." Which is to say that wherever you go in the world, math is math. If your kids have strong math skills they can succeed anywhere....

Force said...

You know, I had many of the same observations after being in Taiwan two summers ago. The one thing I found sorely lacking was the creative aspect in their education program.

For example, kid goes to school, stays until early evening or so. Then, he has bu-shi (supplemental/reinforcement) classes possibly until 10, 11PM.

In doing so, the creative aspects of human nature get shoved aside, although it can be argued that some is preserved through learning musical instruments. However, that to can come down to endless drills and repetition.

Anyway, I think I may have written something similar to your post a while ago, but alas, I'm an engineering major; mine's not quite so eloquently put. =P

Anonymous said...

In the US, the system tries to put everyone though the same classes, even if they have no chance of ever really understanding the material. The result is classes have to be dumbed down to make quota.

In most other countries, they seperate people into different paths based on abilities, so classes better fit the students. They also expel the few trouble makers who unable to do the work themselves, try to ruin it for everyone.

Anonymous said...

One of my closest friends is a top level Construction and Structural Engineering Professor and his very first lesson to his students is a simple one.

"You can be the greatest and most brilliant Engineer in the world.. But you ain't shit if you don't know how to communicate and interact with people.."

Guys the truth is that being solely good at Math and "Hard Skills" may only makes you a good number crunching idiot.

And Asian Americans who give into this type of hard core parental pressure are only cheating themselves in life and honestly have no real identity of their own.

And instead they too often try to chase the false gods of money and material things in order to compete with "white" Americans for status.

And by the way I can say this because I come from this type of family guys..

Bottom line.. Grow up and be your own person regardless of what your family wants you to do.

Only then will you gain REAL Respect from the rest of the world instead of being viewed as just another Chinese or Indian robot who only knows how to crunch numbers.

If not then you will always be just another cheap commodity among millions of other Asians who are all doing the same.

Anonymous said...

Just watch and see who win the most medals at math, informatics, and physics every year.

That country is named Romania.

Mike said...

You didn't even bother to mention that the Chinese Characters treat numbers in a way that is MUCH more conduscive to deep understanding of numbers, whereas western languages have truly wonky ways to express numbers.

one, two three four five six seven eight nine ten
eleven (??) twleve(??) thirteen (close) fourteen (good) fifteen (?) sixteen (good) seven.. eight..nine..(good) twenty (alright)

in chinese it's very clear. there's actual multiplication right in the number itself.

san bai ba shi er = 382
yi shi yi, yi shi er, yi shi san, etc

Do you even speak Chinese??

Anonymous said...

One thing that they could do is stop with the politically correct math education. In California, where I attended most of my primary schooling and my entire secondary schooling, we used College Preparatory Mathematics (CPM), which forced you to figure everything out for yourself - which meant the teacher did jack while you struggled in groups of equally confused people. Usually one group with the math folks did outstanding while everyone else floundered about. Add that and tweak with the standardized test scores and you have satisfactory numbers, happy politicians, lazy teachers, and crippled students. It's been lambasted by many math PhDs as well as teachers who have done things the traditional way - most of whom have ended up being ignored by local politicians, including one by the name of Jaime Escalante, who was essentially politicked out of his position.

I've got a master's degree in computer science with a GPA in excess of 3.9, and I am nearly unable to perform Calculus (which would be necessary to go farther in my education) - and I blame it primarily on having to sit through this tripe for my entire high school career. It certainly wasn't for lack of trying - the time I spent on my math was probably as much as the rest of my classes combined. Because of this we're going to lose our technological and economic edge to China within a generation. Good job, politicians and school boards.

Rob1234 said...

The reasons why Asians are better at math and any other logical subject are not only environmental. Numerous worldwide IQ studies have shown that of all the races, East Asians are bested only by Ashkenazi Jews in terms of average IQ. Here's a quote from Wikipedia: "Attempted world-wide compilations of average IQ by race generally place Ashkenazi Jews at the top, followed by East Asians, Whites, other Asians, Arabs, Blacks and Australian Aborigines." Of course, this is controversial, but I suspect the controversy stems from political correctness instead of any weakness in the structure of the studies. As a white child of above average intelligence growing up in a predominantly black neighborhood, I thought that this might be the case, but I dismissed the thought as "bad" and "racist." Imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon this article while researching IQ tests on wikipedia:

I believe that there are two reason why this is not common knowledge: One is, of course, political correctness. The second is that racists would use this information as fodder. Although they probably know about it now and sling it around as they please, most people, since they have never heard about it, assume it to be nothing more than racist propaganda. If it was common knowledge, however, it might have more of an impact...

Anonymous said...

Sorin is right... the average chinese and indian students are definitely much better than the average american, but the ex-soviet Russians and Romanians are simply a notch higher than the rest at a young age. I think later on everyone is more or less equivalent though i.e. after postgraduate education or something.

Anonymous said...

I Would like to mention that I'm 18 and i too can solve the Chinese question. the British one looks like a joke,I remember solving questions like this in age 14. and to think my level in math is only moderate.

I live in Israel and its funny since in here all I can hear about is how much our education is poor compared to the western world.

LoudLit said...

I was looking at the problem for the Chinese entry exam, and I have a problem.

I am a high school math teacher in the US; more than that I have taught calculus for the last 4 years, making me one of the more advanced teachers in my school. My school district regularly teaches algebra in the 6th grade to great success, allowing many students to take calculus in the 11th grade. By the time many of our students graduate they have had a full year of calculus and a full year of college level statistics.

But even our best students couldn't do the Asian problem. When I look at the problem, I note that we rarely teach solid geometry at the high school level (I teach some to a small group in multi-variable calculus) putting the Americans at a disadvantage.

But my bigger problem is I don't think the problem is doable. You are asked to prove that a pair of lines are perpendicular that don't intersect; they are "skew" lines.

Lastly, I've seen the pressures brought on by parent and by the students themselves; I've seen kids in tears as their AP exams come near. And I've seen students work very hard and achieve at high levels without extreme pressures.

Anonymous said...

I think this article is funny. Racial stereotypes that Asians are better at Math and science and others that are too obscene to mention, while their program maybe rigorous but they can't compete with the US, Canada or Modern Western Cultures. Test scores are not application, and while they know trigonometric identities to solve the question they lack the application skills. If these skills were present then they likely would not be the 2nd and 3rd world countries that they are. Couple that with the fact that it's a priveledge for many Asians to go to school you simply do not get elitist mentality that Western Culture has as there are simply little chances for persons who enjoy the schooling to continue due to social status and economic reasons.

In my Calculus class of the people that failed 50% were Asian, and only 25% of the class was Asian. Stigmas are never a good thing to start on about especially in a battle of the races, there are too many examples to swing either way.

Simply put, I'm not basing one culture over another simply stating that their is no evidence that 1 race is better than the other. While the schooling in Asia is often more advanced, it's often more selective of the students. Western Cultures everyone has the oppurtunity to go to school but in some cases academically not very strong.

American school systems are not to blame, it's America Society. The school system is fine and the curriculum if taken properly will lead you to College/University with good chances to succeed. And you likely won't be up all night playing starcraft!

Cheswyck Desis said...

How do you measure Asians are better in Math. Look at the percentage of population that is better at math and I bet it is difficult to beat US. US produces more graduates than any where in the World. only India produces more engineering graduates but the lead is not much (and really not that significant if you consider percentage of population).

You are considering the cream of population in china that after all the filters of immigration and education are able to make it to the US or UK. So you are comparing the best to the rest. So the conclusion is not very accurate.

Yisong said...

To loudlit: I believe the question is asking not that the the two line segments intersect, but that they are at right angles of each other. As such, you only need to consider the direction of both line segments. If it helps, they can be treated as directional vectors centered at the origin (at which point you'd want to show that the dot product is 0 or something similar).

I don't want to get into a full out debate since I don't believe there has been enough evidence analyzed in this article. But I would like to point out that most successful tech companies (e.g., Google, Microsoft) and prominent research institutions actually encourage their workers to be well-rounded and strike a good work/life balance. This is an established model of productivity and general workplace happiness which has been validated in practice by these successful companies and universities. This is in sharp contrast to the oppressive environment model described by the author.

I believe that specific details we learn in primary and secondary schooling is less important than the attitude and perspectives we acquire during this time. I am now in grad school and have forgotten much of the details I've learned. But I do fondly remember how the love of learning was cultivated by my wonderful teachers.

I think that Western schooling is on average too lax and East Asian schooling too oppressive. I'd also like to point out that many impressions Americans have of East Asian students are a little skewed, since those who immigrate over here tend to be the most productive ones. A quick visit back to my birthplace of Beijing will disillusion anyone of the notion that Chinese people are on average any smarter than Americans.

Anonymous said...

(I the anonymous poster that's a Senior from Simon Kenton High School)
This is a reply to loudlit.

I took that same track that your students did. Calculus as a junior but I also studied calc II independently that year and got a 5 on both AP test. So this year as a senior I took Linear Algebra and Calculus IV and even without these two math classes I would still be able to do the problem.
Even though the lines are not on the same plane (skew) they still have vector representations therefore if they are perpindicular their dot product equals 0. Also, to find their vector form you must notice that the two bases of the prism are cyclic quadrilaterals. I'm not asain, and I didn't have any special teachers in math. I just practice problems like those on the AMC, AIME, and USAMO and looked at the solutions. Any student has the ability to learn.

p.s. If you would like to see the word document containing my solution to the chinese problem just email me at

The Invisible Man said...

This is probably besides the point, but to further the comment made by the teacher earlier, 2 of the 3 parts of the Chinese question are nonsensical as they are written. Actually if you look at it, it looks very much as if parts of the true meaning of the question has been lost in translation.

For part ii, the teacher was correct when she said the two lines are in different planes and so the phrase "is perpendicular to" cannot be applied in this situation. The two planes to which the pertinent lines belong are not even parallel. If they were in parallel planes then maybe you could use a fudged definition of "perpendicular".

Maybe the question meant to ask about A1-C1, not A1-C, or maybe the chinese children are being thought a different, looser definition of "perpendicular"; one more like "lines that cross at 90 degrees if one line is projected onto the same plane as another line in such a way the two involved planes are parellel" or equally absurd modification.

US schools do it all the time, right? Teach students in the way that will get them the answer on the standardized tests, not in the way condusive to knowledge, application, and creativity.

Part iii is not even salvagable by most reasonable modifications of the definition of the term perpendicular. As you would look at different planes, those two lines would form an infinite number of angles; not to mention that they two never intersect.

Anonymous said...

I agree with what miket said:

"I think a large part of our problem is that we are hooked onto the myth that the public school systems work in the U.S. Every public school I have been exposed to has been more of a daycare center at best. It also doesn't help that we have abysmally low standards for teachers, and that schools cater to the maladjusted morons who create trouble."

ABD said...

It is a huge mistake to assume that Asians (which make up 2/3 of the planet) are better at math. It might be correct to say the the international and first generation students from Asian countries exhibit higher level math skills than non Asian Americans. However, some studies have shown that 3rd generation Asians perform on par with other Americans. You also have to realize what it takes for an Asian international student to get into an American college. It's equivalent to getting into NASA. I'm sure that if we took our NASA qualified scholars we'd show parity with the rest of the world.

I wonder if we looked at the average or median citizens math skills if would China or Japan would still out perform us? It's one thing to take the students who have been passing rigorous tests since they were 4 but what about the millions (in the case of China billions) who failed? We never see their scores or math ability.

I think the Uri Triesman studies show that any student can improve their math grades if they put in the right amount of time, tutoring and collaboration.

Anonymous said...

I think they need to make the teachers get smarter so they can teach the kids to be smarter in the US. I have a six year old daughter that could read and write at the age of 4. I did that myself. I didn't beat her or yell at her. I didn't teach her how to act like a child, I didn't put her down for anything ever, I only told her how to do things better, and if she did anything wrong i wouldn't yell at her i would look her in the eyes and tell her in a calm voice what was wrong and what would be better instead of doing wrong. She is so smart now. I am proud. But when i put her in school i didn't like it because they talked about her doing something wrong in front of her, which could depress her or confuse her. I don't have a degree in parenting, but i have done alot without having one, I didn't realize that she was so much smarter than all the other children until she was in school. I am white.

Chui Tey said...

A lot of Asian study activity is directed at exam taking. A common question a student would ask is "is this examinable"? Other tactics are to scour past exam papers. For high school exams, you can buy past paper questions with suggested solutions developed by teachers. In ancient China, acing an exam meant a cushy government job. Exams were the equalizer because someone no matter how poor, or their family how unconnected could end up serving the Administration of the day.

Obviously there are downsides. The smartest kids are forced to take even harder exams in order to "differentiate" themselves. This means less time to explore personal interests. Few people brought up in the Asian system would contemplate quitting uni to start running a business like Bill Gates did.

Anonymous said...

I teach... or rather, I try to. Parents complain loudly when I give anything less than an "A" grade. Kids who refuse to do any reading, writing, thinking... we have to give them "A" grades or we get incredible grief from parents and int turn from administrators if we don't bow to the authority of parents. I'm all for standardized tests. My students who bomb the SAT? They are the lazy, plagiarizing ones with whiny parents. I'm laughing inside when they tell me about their lousy test scores. I worked hard, got decent but not perfect grades, scored very well on my SATs (and later the GRE) and I went to a very prestigious school with a generous scholarship.

Anonymous said...

One way outta poverty was to go through those examinations to secure a top government job. only a tiny fraction would succeed and become a shinshi. It didn't discriminate against social-economical class and was a way out of poverty. History lesson for you. It also meant great honor and pride for the family. Shinshi's were the government elite and had wealth, power and acted between the boundaries of the governemnt and the peseants. (Resolvings issues)

Anonymous said...

I am from India and I did my MS in US. I observed lot of difference not only in Math but also in some other subjects. Like.. I almost re-did some computer science subjects which I already studied in my bachelors.

Regarding the pay for the teachers, its not par with many other professions in India. There was even a proverb "Doing school teacher job just for a living". (Pardon my translation). What makes students bright about Math is competition as one of the other bloggers already mentioned. Bright students are expected to get 100/100 in Math. Ranks are what is given in the schools.. not grades. Grade is too broad to group students. I don't know much about elementary and high school system in US and so will not comment on it.

Anonymous said...

Just a comment on the race and intelligence issue:

It is indeed true that Ashkenazi Jews, that is, European Jews, are the ethnic group often cited as having the highest average IQ in the world. (I'd like to know how high the Parsees score, on average.)

Northeast Asians (Chinese, Koreans, Japanese) are the second highest scoring racial group in the world. Whites are come third.

Interestingly, Northeast Asians tend to have clearly higher visuo-spatial IQs but lower (to a lesser degree) verbal IQs than Whites. I've heard that the fully accultured English speaking Northeast Asian American population has the same IQ profile as the population of Northeast Asians.

Ashkenazi Jews are said to tend to have their advantage almost completely in the verbal area.

I'm a White guy with an "Ashkenazi Jewish" intelligence profile with a full 1 SD difference between verbal and performance scores on WAIS III. ;)

What kind of an intelligence profile do Sub-Saharan Africans or their descendants have, on average?

Anonymous said...

Some comments:

1. Western students hate word questions in math. They would rather have a question that can be put into a formula -- preferrably an easy one, as opposed to the Asian students who also hate word questions in math but who can tackle the use of hard formulas.

2. The "trade-off" is not learning vs creativity, but learning vs laziness and video games. The Western students actually don't have much excess creativity to compensate for their lack of hard skills. They could have had, if the emphasis was on "trade" and not on "off".

3. IQ is an acquired skill; you can easily train your IQ by 15 points or more, and the Asian school system emphasises the drills typically found on IQ tests. So it's not "political correctness" to criticize these "findings" of racial IQ differeces; it's simply sound science to do so. Check out critiques of "The Bell Curve" if you are actually interested in the subject.

4. The missing component in both Asian and Western systems is emphasis upon _interest_. Whenever a student has a genuine interest, they will apply themselves without a whip. The issue was raised over 150 years ago by a German philosopher, and our failures are the failure to address that issue:

5. One of the more stunning achievements of the Western educational system is an emphasis on equality so hard that the better students are actively barred from moving on in subjects like math. I speak from personal experience. Do I bear a grudge? Hell, yes! To be kept doing yet another congruence comparison on the desk while having to hide my trigonometry under the table as if it was some kind of dirty secret -- is this what is supposed to foster creativity?

6. There are unfortunately too many teachers who simply don't know their subject, especially math. You can't teach what you don't know, and many teachers get by by being just 1 week ahead of the pupils. How can such a teacher address a pupil who is 2 weeks ahead? By all means, not all teachers are like that; I had 4 horrible ones and 2 excellent ones. The excellent ones made the difference: Double their salary! No, TRIPLE it!

Anonymous said...

It was proven that Koreans have the highest avg IQ. Americans aren't as smart as Koreans are, but Americans cooperate and work together. Koreans? These people are sneaky. They fall behind because they never do "team work" Even in classes, they would just stay lazy and copy other's work like two minutes before they turn it in. Japanese? They are very polite, but they tend you stab you from your back...gotta be Chinese? don't have manners, their language sounds funny, their fashion is traditional, ..... much more.
So glad I weren't born as one of them. 25% World Population? That's HUGE!! Thank God I'm not Chinese..

Visions said...

The main reason why East Asians do better at math was not listed which is that East Asians have a naturally higher spatial IQ than everyone else. The higher spatial IQ of East Asians is visible in studies from as early as age 3 in IQ tests even before formal schooling begins. East Asians have a spatial IQ of approximately 110. 2/3 of a standard deviation above the mean. This doesn't equate that all Asians are better at math but explains why a larger proportion of Asians are better at math then others.

It's the same reason why Ashkenazi Jews excel at writing or verbal skills. Who have a natural IQ higher in this area.

Anonymous said...

It isn't IQ or schooling that makes the difference alone, it's both.

I had a chinese (a "smart" type of asian) friend with really lenient parents who never studied and he did poorly in school.

Then I had a filipino friend (supposedly a "dumber" type of asian) with extremely strict parents, and he aced everything.

Perhaps there is an IQ edge in math, but you need the right parenting to even see the difference.

I think the American educational system would benefit vastly if it were more like East Asian educational systems. Also, American parents are slobs.

Evan Wu said...

I'm a Chinese now studying in US since last year.

first i want to say I'm not showing off here, just talk about something from my opinion.
but, actually, the 3D Geometry problem above is not a hard one, maybe it should be concluded as a one that is between easy and medium.

I think part of the reason in U.S is that the students are over-relying on the calculator and not really understand what's happening in the math. In China, no matter how big or complex the calculation is, calculator is not allowed, at least in math and most condition when solving chemistry and physics. That's cheating... and for some really easy calculation here, the teacher will just tell u, u will never get it without calculator which is really not right. the difficulty of math calculation and problem here in high school is really like the difficulty in china in 6th grade in elementary school, or of 7th grade in middle school(i'm just talking about difficulty of problems, not the content or subjects we are learning).
and I think another reason is american don't pay as much time as Asian student do(as least chinese and korean, i'm not sure about janpanese)
language difference might be a factor, but I don't think it is that important as people thought. I think the most important is your adeptness and understanding of the math behind the problems.

Anonymous said...

sorry if this is not politically correct, but here goes anyway. asians are better at math for the following reasons:

- culturally, chinese and most asians (filipinos notwithstanding) do not focus on the creative side of the brain or the human spirit. they tend to focus more on cold, hard logic, i.e., math. they tend to see the world as black and white. grey matter is not dealt with if at all possible. read a chinese menu vs. a western one. there are no adjectives describing tastes or subtleties in flavor. everything is ingredients and preparation: beef, chicken, shrimp, fried, boiled, etc. a coulis remoulade with a pear like chutney essence??? what the hell is that?
- chinese go to school not for its own sake or to become intellectual or self-actualized, but rather, for practical purposes, and that is to gain skills that will help them get high-paying jobs in this competitive age of symbolic analysis. in other words, if the subjects are philosophy, music, cultural literacy or anything that will not propel a student to high income levels, they will not bother with it nor are they generally any good at it. i've taught in asia. trust me, asian students are not good critical or creative thinkers. throw a math problem on the board or give them trivia to memorize and regurgitate back on multiple choice exams: BINGO!
- while westerners study a variety of subjects and attain knowledge that is interesting to them and their attunenments with the wider world, again, asians focus on what's important for practicality and what will allow them to manipulate the material world in their favor.
- whites study theology, philosophy, literature, feminism, culture studies and impractical subjects that help define their place in the universe. blacks sing, dance, play sports and involve themselves with physical culture. hispanics tend to be more creative as well and involve themselves with things that allow them to express themselves and to place work as secondary to life. again, asians, specifically, chinese do not understand this paradigm. it is simply not in their vocabulary.

hence, like it or not, they WILL take over the world in a anti-romantic, high-tech age that extends the quantity of life with the help of pharmaceutical therapies. the 21st is to be the chinese century.

Anonymous said...

I teach in China, and for some reason, nearly half of my students look at their peers sheets for answers. One would think this constant appearance would hinder their education.

The answer to the topic is in language and culture.

Chinese can visualize and interpret multi-dimensional images easily due to their written language characters having a vast number of strokes and multiple tones based on visual que using memory and a few other identifiers in the character. Some characters (not common by any means) have up to 32 strokes, that's just in one character.

The other reason is in culture. Although they claim to have 14 hours of school every day, they neglect to include the nationwide 2hr lunch. 12-2pm. Is this mid day nap beneficial?

In addition, they are highly competative, and with the western "individuality" promotion, students feel less pressure for needing to excell in math.

With the large number of people in China, and school capacity limited, only the best make the cut, and as they progress, are still required to make the next cut.

With regards to Asian-Americans, the absense of a cultural link to their ethnic origins, including Language and family impact, I'm curious to see the statistics based on such cases.

Anonymous said...

I'd have to agree, this problem is a joke. In Australia i'd like to think my mathematical skills as moderate, but i can accurately solve the included Chinese question (i am currently enrolled in year 11).

Anonymous said...

I think that American school system dont give their students tough problems from a young age. If students realized that they were expected, at the least, to solve moderately hard math problems, then the math/science level here would be much higher, but the students are spoon fed basic math that anyone who learned the topic should be able to easily solve. There is NO thinking involved, just memorizing and using formulas.

Anonymous said...

The problem with US schools' math courses are that they give problems that require pure work and no thinking to solve and introduce the calculator to students at an early age. Being an Indian, my parents actually forbid me to use the calculator until it was absolutely necessary which is in 6th grade...I'm now taking calculus with an asian teacher and lo and behold, I need NO calculator in 12th grade.

American schools produce kids who can follow numbers and formulas but who get confused when it comes to Algebraic or non calculator math.

livemylife said...

(take me for example)i am a pure chinese students ,receive the pure chinese education from young ,after high school, i leave for israel ..
why asians are better at maths ??
u should take a look at the time table chinese students take.. get up in 6:00 am ,study until 10:00 pm. u should know how much we have suffered ,especially in maths. well,i guess most chinese students put their energy and time in maths and science.
chinese government do care about the education. the government invest large amount of money to education... and the whole chinese society also very care about educaiton, especially the maths ability parents force their children study maths when very young.such as my parents ..i still remember how my father fighted me when i didn`t get the full mark at maths in primary school ,he said i was a stupid girl only coz i was not good at maths... well. now i don`t hate my father, without his stick ,i wouldn`t be in best senior school ,in best university .i proved myself not a stupid girl, i do very well in maths .much better than jewish students. but somehow i still feel unconfident, like my father said :u r always not good enough ,u r always on halfway .

maybe it is just hardwork lead asians better at maths .. see, chinese students use their party time to do the hard maths problems..

Sony said...

Im Asian and my parents were hard on me, it was always about their standards and nothing else. It was not until high school that the pressure got to me and I stopped trying so hard, but learning was always easy for me after that. In high school the standards were so low that I had time to play sports and party and still make a good grade. For me its not a matter of how hard is it and can I do it; its more of a HOW LONG IS IT AND AM I WILLING TO PUT THE EFFORT.... yeah public schools have made me lazy.

Andre said...

It seems the theory has been picking up in the past few or so. Malcolm Gladwell in his most recent book Outliers addresses the issue head on.

Gladwell: Why are Asians better at math?

mokomichi said...

I'm asian , yet I'm not pressured to do well in the subject area of math. It's just , to me math makes sense in comparison to other academic areas. Just because it happens to be the area one particular asian excells in does not mean all asians are just good at math.

& the pre-entry diagnostic test is really easy..
wish everything was the same way here :(

Anonymous said...

this isn't exactly all that accurate. I was beaten by studded leather belts on my naked ass, and whipped my hands too, and yet i still got mainly B's on my report card years ago. As for dave's philosophy of paying teachers more, thats definitely not going to help. The teachers get around 2-3 months vacation once they are done working. why should we pay people who do less work more? (doesnt sound like i said it right) I think the main problem is the lack of motivation for the student. In America its significantly easier than it was in Ukraine however but that is another problem. Why would you work harder in a place with lower standards?

Zen Harper said...

An interesting post; the two test questions are very amusing! I agree that general mathematics standards of English schoolchildren are shockingly low on average. However, this opinion is based on my own experience (and conversations with my Chinese friends), not on the evidence presented here, entertaining though it is. Here are some things which I thought I'd add:

Certain Asian countries (e.g. Thailand, Malaysia) have much lower standards than China, India, Japan, etc. - "Asian" is rather a generalisation.

It is not clear which students these questions are intended for. Mathematics students? Science/engineering students? General students?

The English test question sounds like a "diagnostic", i.e. just checking that students can do the easy stuff - maybe it's intended to be very easy? Whereas the Chinese question is from an "exam", i.e. it's presumably supposed to be difficult.

The Chinese question initially hits you with a very scary-looking diagram; however, it's not really so difficult once you get over the shock (and of course, students will already have a lot of practice in very similar questions). If you use 3D vectors and scalar/vector products it comes out easily. (Although if you don't know about 3D vectors it's a lot harder). Of course the English question uses only basic trigonometry, so is a bit less advanced.

But the English question is not necessarily much easier, just much shorter. Well, maybe "straightforward" would be a better word than "easy" - both questions are "straightforward" as long as you know the methods to use, it's just that the Chinese question takes more time. But again, we don't know how long the questions are supposed to take on average.

However, I do still agree that average English schoolchildren are pathetically weak compared to average Chinese schoolchildren. This saddens me a little, since I am English; but at least English mathematical research compares very favourably with Chinese research, hooray!! If you compare the people at the top, there's little difference that I can see. What really irritates me (as a mathematician) is exams with very easy questions, but which must be done very quickly (and also multiple choice questions) - certainly, this is not common in England, which is good. I get the impression that such stuff is quite popular in some Asian countries. Certainly, many Chinese parents seem to be much more obsessed about every percentage point; really, whats so good about getting 100 percent instead of 95 percent? Good mathematicians actually tend to get the slightly lower scores - they finish the exams an hour early, and spend the rest of the time thinking about their own theories instead of checking their answers...I'm suspicious of anyone with 100 percent and all grade A's; in my experience, they're invariably obsessive rather than truly great.

Anyway, we shouldn't really care so much about nationalistic feelings - the entire human race needs a lot of improvement, and not just mathematical...

Christina said...

Reading from the title I didn't even have to guess. NEWSFLASH: I WAS BORN IN AMERICA and I'm a genius when it comes to math. In addition, I went to an international boarding school in which had a lot of Asian students. I used to teach a lot of my Asian roommates and help them get A's on their papers. They would even ask me questions about math. Now, the problem is actually that the products that American's use from China have been contaminated by who work in that field. Scientists actually discovered that this issue was happening for years and America was just unaware of it. Furthermore, a friend of mine from Germany told me that even Germany had been helping China with contamination of products that Americans use. SO, It was concluded that such toxins have caused a lot of sickness and learning disabilities among Americans. Overall, don't be so ignorant to think Asians are better at math than EVERY single American. America truly needs to STOP being so friendly and naive to other countries; it makes America extremely VULNERABLE.

Anonymous said...

As a 12 year old American Chinese, I suffered from depression from beatings from my dad. My dad went to Andover AND Harvard with scholarships.He expects me to be like him.I remember he forced Algebra me in 1st grade. Well, now I appreciate that since I took the SAT and recieved a 2300 and I do Honor courses like Algebra and Geometetry. Go ASIANS!!!!

pvtguy said...

A topic I have been tackling after I realized my own kids fell short in being able to handle society after they graduate. I understand some kids do better with pictures (visual) versus literal methods. Drawing this out prior to kids entering school I think will help education systems streamline their academics for specific students, helping them on areas of weakness.
Besides math and science (which I never like to push for the arts in America), behavioral and relationship skill are critical, and not taught until if your lucky College, but even then, it is not pushed or encouraged, though society has such severe problems with good relationships, such as half of all marriages end in divorce.
We clearly need to reorganize priorities in education.

Glowing Face Man said...

Well, Asians don't have this edge when it comes to more abstract math. I do mathematical logic, and Asians are almost nonexistent in the field. Kanamori is the only Asian who does mathematical logic. Similar remarks go for things like number theory, abstract algebra, and so on. In the math department, practically half the grad students are Asian (mostly Chinese), but they're all applied math!

Jason said...

While (non-Jewish, non-Asian) American parents may profess to believe strongly in education, in reality most do very little to encourage their children to strive for excellence, especially in math and science. The exceptions that exist are likely parents whose professions require proficiency in math and science.

A bright (but not brilliant) student could very easily learn all the mathematics taught in a typical American high school in 4 semesters: very basic plane geometry, algebra and trig, basic calculus. This student would still probably not be competitive with the high achieving Asians in skill. Perhaps this is why American students have such high self-esteem in math, but can't compete with Asians in skill. The math courses they are given are just not challenging enough to make them think twice about how good they are.

There are two problems that would arise if math curricula in the US were to be made more challenging. First, American schools do not engage in aggressive tracking. A high school diploma is expected for even the most menial jobs in the USA. This leads to a situation where things need to be made easy enough for anybody to graduate. Second, teacher salaries are very low in the USA compared to private sector employment opportunities available to those proficient in math. This leads to grossly under qualified math teachers who lack depth of understanding and would probably struggle to teach a more difficult curriculum.

Even in American universities, general education requirements use valuable time that could be spent producing more knowledgeable graduates in math, engineering, and the sciences. Yes, there are benefits to being exposed to a broad spectrum of subjects, but in world of global capitalism, there are major benefits to graduating with a greater amount of competence in and exposure to one's chosen profession.

Creativity is essential in an economy that thrives on diversity and the development of new products, but computational and analytical skills are essential for the development of many technologies. A solid set of math skills makes a great deal of subject matter understandable that is otherwise completely incomprehensible. It is just like learning how to read.

That being said, you do not need to be a mathematician to be an engineer. If you can master calculus and differential equations, you are on solid footing.

Anyway, I'll conclude this somewhat disjointed rant with the following opinions:

-Many parents in the USA are not doing much to encourage their children to excel in math and science. This needs to change for the USA to remain competitive in the global economy.

-Forget the student/teacher ratio. We need more qualified teachers, not more teachers. Fire those who don't make the cut, and hire 1/3 as many as before, but at 3 times the salary. Only hire the best.

-Being innumerate is like being illiterate. It is a limiting handicap.

-You do not have to be exceptionally bright to master the most important math skills.

-There is no need to give up freedom, creativity, or summer vacations. Basic math skills (geometry, algebra, calculus) just need to be given the same priority as literacy.

-Math teachers should assign some super challenging problems at least once in awhile.

-Rote memorization is useful. Some American teachers seem to have dismissed it completely. Problems can be solved much faster if you don't have to look up formulas.

-Quality of math education is a huge issue in America that needs to be confronted ASAP.

Jennifer said...

To be honest, this is the truth. What plays a big role in succeeding in school is discipline and attitude. The typical school age child groans about going to school for 6 hours, considering it boring and unentertaining. Asian parents tend to put more pressure on their children to excel in school. They teach their children to really value and appreciate education. I'm not implying that American parents don't give prominence to their child's education, however they tend to lack disciplinary skills and focus less on results and more on comforting their child if they receive a bad grade. The parents' education plays an important role in how their children value school and do in school. Both of my parents have graduated from university- and no they weren't from rich upscale families. My mother was born to a very poor family, had to take a loan to pay for her education and was the only one out of her family to become fully educated. My father went through the same experience. I'm American and currently in high school. I do notice the difference in attitudes toward school between Asians and MOST (not all, there are a few exceptions here and there) Americans. I, believe it or not, consider school to be enjoyable. Many American parents would never dream of hearing that come out of their childrens' mouths. To be honest, I find the attitudes of most American students dispicable. Even if we had the greatest education system in the world, we would always have students who lack the discipline and determined attitude towards school.

Anonymous said...

I am a 14 year old American and can do both. I don't see why one wouldn't be able to apply the knowledge needed for the English one to the Chinese one. Actually, I think someone could do the first one without any knowledge of trigonometry at all. It just shows that Eastern education is endless memorization while Western focuses on application. Asians have taught to memorize excessively; therefore, when they get to the graduate level, they are lost.

Anonymous said...

I would strongly disagree with what some are saying about lack of creativity in Asians. My friend Mishii Yang is Chinese and lived in China in her childhood. Mishii Is extremely creative and is a wondefull writer and artist. She was top in her class in Shanghai, which was her hometown. I believe that lack of creativity is just another steryotype about Asians, especially Chinese, that is not true.

Anonymous said...

I think what the society values and rewards definitely has something to do with it. My bright 6 year old was told he is a "dork" by a peer when he expressed his interest in the periodic table and worse yet I came to know this through his 'well-meaning' teacher that maybe we should work with him on developing similar interests as his peers so he could be socially more "appropriate".

Anonymous said...

I am from the Philippines. I study in one of the best math schools in here.I am also a member of our school math team. I noticed that the math competitions in China and India and other Asian countries is way hareder than the CMO IMO AMC and others

Anonymous said...

That's not an English university entrance test. That question is GCSE standard in the United Kingdom (aged 15-16). The "asian" question above however is expressed in GCE in the fourth core module taught (age 17-18)

domanator said...

This is messed...I live in Ottawa, Ontario (that's in Canada), am currently in grade 11, and i can't solve that Chinese Math problem. The strange thing is that in my school, most people see me as one of the best students in math. At the moment, I'm in grade 11 Functions and have a 100%, yet i can't do the problem which i just read above some 14 year old did. That's messed or the kid was lying. Another possibility would be that Ottawa schools are full of meatheads.

Now, about Asian kids being smarter than White kids. I think this is partially true. All the white kids at my school are lazy and don't do any work, yet all the asians will study for crazy amounts of hours. It's not a matter of being smarter, it's a matter of being more committed.

I read a funny comment about beating kids earlier. To put in my 2 cents, it's fine to hit your kids if it's like a slap on the wrist. Just enough force to make them know to not do something again (ie: stealing), but if the kid receives trauma or breaks a bone, u going to jail son.

LoL: Are Asians yellow? or brown? I have always wondered. PS: i'm not being racist.

Anonymous said...

I am a Chinese and I moved to the California last Nov with my husband.I take the GMAT(Graduate Master Admission Test)today.I got the full score on my maths test.I have to say that
the graduate maths test for American is too easy for the Chinese students.Because the graduate admission test for Chinese university is far more sophisticated than Gmat's Maths part.Graduate admission test for Chinese university includes advanced mathematics such as calculus,probability,linear algebra.However,the level of the Gmat's math is only equal to the Chinese mid-school's maths level.
However,what has made things balance is that Chinese students who want to be admitted in the United State's university have to
take the verbal test,which is difficult for the Chinese.And I got a poor score on the verbal part--below the average even though I am good at Chinese-I have won several writing contests in China.So language barrier is more challenging for a Chinese student .

Anonymous said...

I am a Asian kid in California, and I have noticed that the math curriculum sucks! I have always been way ahead, and I felt bored in class. The teachers always assigned about 50 questions for homework, and they are a complete waste of my time. In sixth grade we did pre - algebra, but I knew many Asian kids ready to do Geometry. Math system should improve.

Anonymous said...

Another reason that Asians are better at math and science than students in countries other than those in Asia is because when Asians immigrant to Canada, for instance, the parents know that their children cannot exceed in English, for those who were born in Canada are naturally better. So the only subjects Asians can turn to, to win a fair battle, is math and science. That's what my dad and mom always say and I think it is true.

Anonymous said...

I would like to know, if indeed Asians are better at maths and physics, then why are all the great mathematicians and physicists of the ages European (very few exceptions).

Second, why can't Asians design and conceptualize their own products, they just copy. Most Asian industry just copies what Europe or the US has done, then just practices on perfecting someone else's work (copiers), while the Europeans and Americans move on to the next thing.

Third, why does their buildings collapse if they understand maths and physics so well. Why do they need western companies to teach them anything?

Fourth, why isn't China so far ahead in alternative energy and aerospace, if their maths and physics program are so keen on the foundations.

The answers to these questions are rote learning, and no true independent synthesis. This is where the west kicks butt.

The difference in Europe and the US systems is the US ties its success to the lowest person by requiring everyone to move along. Europe divides them in the secondary phase. Science one school, liberal arts another.

The US approach is everyone goes through an equal path and decide after secondary schooling. This is why the average American is smarter in terms of practical knowledge and skill than Asians.

I have found in my years of interaction that the smartest of the East or South Asians are not comparable to the smartest American or European (no comparison). They lack independent thought and the ability to synthesize because their learning is rote. They regurgitate, so computations are what they can do, not true maths.

Maths is not computations, it is the ability to create new forms of computations.

Anonymous said...

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Amy Feng said...

To those of you who think asians aren't smart,think about this: Maybe they have potential, but they never get a chance to live up to it. I have an Chinese friend who was six grades ahead in first grade, but since the tests were so easy no one noticed that he aced them every time. When seventh grade rolled around, he was average because the school taught him NOTHING during second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth grade! I'm five grades ahead, but I got an awesome teacher who let everyone work at their own pace.

And for proof that the tests are too easy, I was doing questions like the UK example when I was nine!