Math has long been a subject of fascination and puzzlement to many people. Chinese students are particularly skilled and successful in mathematics, leading to the popularised question: why are Chinese so good at math?
In this article, we will explore the reasons why Chinese students excel in math, analysing the factors that contribute to their success.
A Confucian Perspective
Confucianism is one of the ways in which the Chinese conception of learning and education have been shaped. Confucianism is a system of philosophical thought that stresses the importance of education, social harmony, and personal cultivation. Confucius suggested that learning and mastering the mastery of one thing is a form of self-cultivation, and this sense of mastery was to become a critical part of the Chinese approach to education.
This idea of mastering one thing at a time is credited with giving Chinese students the capacity to develop mathematical prowess.
Chinese culture’s emphasis on learning
Chinese culture has long valued learning and intellectual achievement, in the pursuit of which students are willing to work hard and devote a great amount of time. As a result, Chinese students spend many hours each day studying and perfecting their math skills, stoking an intense competitive atmosphere fuelled by the sense of purpose.
This competitive atmosphere, in combination with the valuing of diligence, helps to explain why Chinese students perform so well in math.
Using Reward Systems
Chinese parents often place great emphasis on education and are willing to reward their children for their successes in math. Teachers typically use reward systems to motivate their students to excel, further promoting the atmosphere of competition.
Rewards for successful students can come in the form of money, electronics, or other items, which in turn motivates students to work harder and practice math. This reward system offers further insight into why Chinese students are so successful in math.
The Chinese education system is well structured, imposing rigorous curricular and academic requirements on students. This structure encourages academic performance and sets high standards, while simultaneously preparing Chinese students in their quest to attend university. Math requires a high degree of structure and organisation, which is why the Chinese education system is well-suited to fostering mathematical skills.
Chinese students often learn overlapping forms of mathematics simultaneously, such as on the same day. For example, students may be asked to master the fundamentals of trigonometry, algebra, and calculus at the same time.
This type of simultaneous learning helps students better understand the interconnected nature of mathematics, allowing them to make connections and draw from multiple sources.
Chinese students often take part in peer learning, allowing them to share their knowledge with one another and encourage each other. This peer learning helps to reinforce the material being studied, making it easier to understand and easier to retain.
This type of learning gives Chinese students an advantage when taking math tests and exams, providing an important insight into why they do so well in math.
Homework is mandatory in the Chinese education system, and Chinese students are required to spend several hours a day on it. Homework generally includes a mix of math and literature, allowing students to combine their math skills with reading, writing, and analytical thinking. This hybrid approach to learning not only reinforces math learning, but it also allows students to employ multiple skills to improve their overall academic performance.
Chinese as a Second Language
Chinese is the official language of China, and it is widely taught both inside and outside the country. As such, Chinese students possess a high level of linguistic proficiency, giving them an edge when it comes to math.
By having the ability to quickly articulate mathematical problems, Chinese students can work on math problems more easily and accurately, thus accounting for their high performance in the subject.
Chinese society embraces a culture of group learning and respect for scholarship, making math achievement a source of pride and admiration. This culture puts a premium not just on hard work, but also on intelligence and curiosity, while stigmatising failure and mediocrity.
This makes math an important subject for Chinese students, and they take it seriously, which contributes to their mastery of the subject.
Integrated Math Environment
Chinese students learn math in an integrated environment that allows them to apply their skills to the real world. Math is integrated into the classroom setting, with students engaging in activities such as solving problems, building structures, and creating models.
This integrated approach to learning math creates a natural curiosity and understanding, as students are able to observe the practical applications of math in everyday life.
Chinese parents have long placed a premium on education, giving special attention to math. Parents stress the importance of math to their children and provide a positive example of math mastery.
This kind of encouragement is known to help students develop a strong understanding of mathematics, further contributing to their success in the subject.
In sum, there are a variety of reasons why Chinese students excel at math. From a cultural and educational perspective, Chinese students benefit from an environment that values education, rewards hard work, and provides rigorous curricular requirements. The Chinese education system also employs educational techniques such as integrated learning, overlapping learning, and peer learning, all of which foster a deep understanding of mathematics.
Finally, Chinese parents often place a high emphasis on education, encouraging their children to pursue their intellectual goals. All of these components taken together explain why Chinese students are so successful in mathematics.