Sardonic Sistah Says

Observations… Ruminations… Ponderances… & Rants from Another Perspective

X= Why We Don’t Excel in Math

with one comment

I am a word person.  For the longest time I thought that the world was made up of word people and number people and never the twain shall meet.  Then I realized that number people can make a lot more money than word people and decided to set about making my daughter into a number person.  She seems like she is straddling the world of numbers and words and although she has taken higher math than I ever could have handled in high school our arguments aren’t rooted in the fact that I can’t solve long algebraic equations like she can but the fact that in her eyes I am old and unhip just because I am her mother.

My stepson also seems like a numbers person although I think it might be by default.  His new school schedule came and they have him down for a type of remedial English and everything else is a regular 8th grade curriculum.  Actually, I think the highest grade he got on a report card last in a subject area was a B-minus in math  (of course he aced phys ed).  I don’t think he’s able to get a handle on math because he’s half Asian but more because he’s a boy and boys, being more left brain oriented, are always shoving useless math stats in their heads like who leads the league in stolen bases or how many games must your team win and other teams must lose to make your team number one.  Whereas girls keep foremost in their heads useless love songs/poems, who likes who, and why every other girl is better than they are. 

Last summer my daughter attended a two week science/math camp which was supposed to turn into a summer internship this year which she decided to forgo in favor of a job doing art instead.  On the 2nd to the last day of camp the advisors invited all the parents and camp sponsors to show them what the teen boys and girls had been doing for two weeks.  My daughter was a project leader but I didn’t get a chance to see her presentation because I had to return back to work.  I would have if the head of the camp hadn’t taken up most of the time with his speech.  In his speech he talked about the need for such a program because American kids are lagging behind the rest of the world in math science.  At least 10 minutes (or what felt like 10 minutes) was attributed to how other countries are not only surpassing us in math scores but also churning out more engineers and mathematicians.  Even a linguaphile like me had heard those stats before.  But he didn’t exactly say why they were excelling in the math and science fields.

The difference has to be less innate and more cultural.  On the Cocky Asian Blog I found a link to a BBC news story from the spring that talks about how the Chinese do better in math than Americans.  This math problem alone blows my mind.   Being over twenty years removed from my last geometry class I found this problem daunting.

But there is no way on God’s green earth I’m even going to think about solving for anything in this one:

My daughter is taking the SAT again this fall.  Since she took it this spring they have been sending sample SAT questions to my email.  The grammer and word questions I can easily answer but the math questions I sometimes try to guess at.  I have this sinking feeling that a parent in China who is similarly 20+ years away from their last math class would have no problems tackling the average SAT sample questions I get.


Written by rentec

5 August, 2007 at 11:08 pm

Posted in education

One Response

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  1. I believe that the problems you presented are deceptive. The two problems shown above may have been for people of a similar grade level but it is not expected that everyone in China be able to answer that question. China is a huge country, a majority of which live in poverty. Those people have no hope of answering either of those questions.

    The question from China is for the elite students that actually have been educated to the level where they are allowed into the state sponsored schools. In America a much larger proportion of students are able to answer either of these problems. I don’t think it is a question of being surpassed by other countries, but that other countries are sacrificing a majority of the population for the production of a few elite scholars in hopes of competing with the rest of the world.


    13 September, 2007 at 1:25 pm

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