Culture counts in making Chinese maths-smart

Feb 26, 2013
Culture counts in making Chinese maths-smart
QUT researcher Michael Mu looks at why Chinese Australians are high achievers in maths.

Chinese Australians consistently outperform their peers in mathematics and according to QUT researcher Michael Mu this is not only because of pushy parents or motivated students.

Mr Mu's research has found in addition to a strong emphasis on mathematics, Chinese mathematical achievement is also passed down through generations.

Mr Mu, who is undertaking his PhD through the Faculty of Education, said Chinese counted in mathematical success.

As part of his study, Mr Mu surveyed 230 young Chinese Australians relating their mathematical achievement to their level of association with their Chinese cultural dispositions.

"I found there is a trend showing Chinese Australians' mathematics learning is influenced, consciously or unconsciously, by the values and expectations that they get from their cultural identity," he said.

"It's not only about Chinese parents pushing their children at mathematics, or students putting in more effort, or the belief that have a great interest in maths, it's much more deeply rooted in their ."

Mr Mu said "habitus" or as it was more commonly understood as structures that generate, but not determine, certain cultural dispositions, was what pushed Chinese Australians to do well at - and it could be done consciously or unconsciously.

"The importance of mathematics is steeped in and culture. It is part of Confucius ideas and beliefs," he said.

"Chinese traditions and beliefs play an important part in Chinese culture and they are passed down from generation to generation.

"Despite some possible imperfect intergenerational reproduction, Confucian way of being, doing, and thinking continues over thousands of years.

"This perception becomes the underpinning mechanism that leads to Chinese Australians' putting in more effort in mathematics learning and therefore better mathematics achievement compared to their counterparts."

Mr Mu's study is published as "Does Habitus Count in Chinese Australians' Mathematics Achievement?"

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User comments : 10

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Shootist
3 / 5 (2) Feb 26, 2013
Culture and IQ.

You cannot fill a cracked pot with water.
VendicarE
2 / 5 (4) Feb 26, 2013
ShooTard explains why he American Conservatives are incapable of learning.
Sean_W
1 / 5 (1) Feb 26, 2013
Is it safe to assume that they were comparing Chinese Australians who did not have any Europeans in the immediate family so they were actually isolating cultural influence from genetic ones? It should be something one wouldn't have to ask but science is so political these days. I don't propose that the Chinese are genetically better at math (if anything it is likely in part a result of their alphabet system priming the child's brain for mathematical concepts) but genetic factors would need to be ruled out to make the conclusion they are making.
Sean_W
1 / 5 (1) Feb 26, 2013
VendicarE, were you by any chance traumatized by someone who was mentally challenged when you were young? You seem to use "tard" as a pejorative a lot.

natello, the phrase "the yellow race" is a touch archaic, isn't it? Not that it bothers me but using it will get anything which follows it quickly dismissed by many people.
powerup1
1 / 5 (1) Feb 26, 2013
This study is not very scientific. There is far too many speculative conclusions without much data to back them up.
scenage
4 / 5 (1) Feb 27, 2013
So Racism - aka. stereotyping - makes us better mathematicians? :P
P.S. I am a Australian Chinese who did well in math hehe :)

Strange how he made the connection between our cultural traditions and math?!?!?!
VendicarE
not rated yet Feb 27, 2013
I am compelled to do so by the lack of support for the plus sign in the text editor used by a science site.

"You seem to use "tard" as a pejorative a lot." - Sean_W

Tards are everywhere.

Pushing is the answer.

http://www.youtub...ot9iJm_k
LarryD
1 / 5 (1) Feb 27, 2013
Yeah, I recon the article was sponsored by the Chinese! Since Chinese is spoken by billion plus the Chinese Gov. would like to see it replace English as the international Language...maybe I am just bias.
It may be that since Chinese children have to study their language without an alphabet they get used to identifying the various parts of the Chinese pictograms...one needs to remember about 2-3000 Chinese to carry on a good converstation. May be that all the math symbols are see just extensions of Chinese. Ha!
GGBB
5 / 5 (1) Feb 27, 2013
Chinese language does have more mathematical sense than English. 'Eleven' in Chinese is ten one, and 'twelve' ten two, etc. 'Twenty' in Chinese is two tens, and 'thirty' three tens, etc. I guess this may be another reason for Chinese better maths achievement becasue Chinese starts doing maths when counting. This is an assumption only and need more empirical study to justify.
antialias_physorg
1 / 5 (1) Mar 04, 2013
Strange how he made the connection between our cultural traditions and math?

Agreed. If a chinese person did not expend any effort on math then they would fare no better than anyone else.
The 'cultural' part is that in certain cultures it is just the norm to expend effort for gains - while in other cultures it's more or less expected that things are given to you without any effort on your part.

I noticed this when I attended a US highschool for a couple of years. The Asian and European students would think it abnormal NOT to study for a test, while the US or hispanic born students would think nothing of spending the day(s) before a test on social activities. You can guess what the honors roll at that school looked like.