Immersion in 'Superior' Chinese Education?
Photo by Jane Peterson
New York Times
In "An American School Immerses Itself in All Things Chinese" (NYT, October 26, 2014), Jane A. Peterson publishes an informative article - though also something of a 'puff' piece - about a school in Minneapolis, Yinghua Academy, that immerses American students in Mandarin Chinese to teach all of its classes from from kindergarten to eighth grade, which is fine and dandy by my reckoning, but I have a few reservations about some of the praise:
Math results, which are particularly strong, are partly attributed to the Singapore Math curriculum and its eight-step approach to word problems, as well as the Chinese-educated teachers who move through material more quickly than their American peers.Ms. Peterson is a journalist stationed in Singapore, so she should know something about its approach to math education, but she might also be wont to consider it more positively than if otherwise stationed. I note this only as a possibility - and one should always practice some skepticism about what one reads. Consider, for instance, these words of praise for Mandarin:
Mathematical terms in Mandarin are also clearer. The word for "triangle," for instance, "sanjiaoxing," means three-sided. And when counting to 100, the Chinese use only 10 numbers to build all others; 71, for instance, is written 7-10-1. "The number system is easier to work with," said Mary McDonald, a seventh-grader who takes an extra university math class once a week. "It's faster and more organized."Hmmm . . . Let me just point out that "triangle" means "three-angled," which is no more difficult than "three-sided." Moreover, I can't see the Chinese number system as easier since the Western number system also uses only ten numbers - 0 through 9 - to compose all others. But who am I to argue with a seventh-grader?
And perhaps I've simply missed the point about how math is "clearer" and "easier" in Mandarin. Might somebody explain to me how?