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Blame the (white) parents?

Discussion in 'Mathematics' started by David Getling, Nov 14, 2011.

  1. David Getling

    David Getling Lead commenter

    A couple of days ago the latest MAA Focus magazine dropped through my letterbox. On the fourth page was a picture of the US girls team for the China Girls Mathematical Olympiad. Six out of eight were Asian. This kind of proportion seems to be common.

    Clearly this is not a reflection of the demographics, or a case of Asians being more talented at mathematics. So, what else is one left with? High achievement typically requires sustained effort, which is more likely to be given to something one holds in high regard. And young people typically inherit their parents' values.

    I remember, a few years ago, one young lady telling me that her mother pointed out that she was working in a bank, wasn't very good at maths, and didn't need it.

    Why is it that Asian parents can see and appreciate the value of maths but white ones can't?
  2. GoldMaths

    GoldMaths New commenter

    A book I read (Outliers - Story of Success [I think]) blamed this on a historical trait of farming. Whites farmed half a year and rested during winter, Asians worked on Rice Paddies all year. Similarly white farmers increased the size of their farms to produce more, Asians become more efficient. These historic reasons made sense to me to explain the difference in attitudes.
  3. googolplex

    googolplex Occasional commenter

    It is too simplistic to blame parents. There are all sorts of cultural factors at play here, and parents are just one facet of this, albeit a hugely important one. I'm certain I've tried to bring my son up with equivalent values to me. However, as a 6th former, now, he couldn't give a !*%$... and is your archetypal boy - turn up and do the exam, can't be bothered with homework/coursework.[​IMG]
  4. Guish

    Guish New commenter


    It makes much more sense now.
  5. Molesworth2

    Molesworth2 New commenter

    Randy Newman's "Korean Parents" explains it pretty well too.
  6. Karvol

    Karvol Occasional commenter

    This seems a bit of a simplistic interpretation of why - generally - asian origin kids tend to better. Asians tended rice paddies for the whole year and Europeans only planted crops for 6 months of the year is the best they could come up with? A tad one dimensional don't you think?
    What about crop and field rotation? Optimisation of planting to get maximum yields?
    It doesn't consider what happens when Asian origin kids are sent to international schools and removed from traditional Asian educational systems. My personal experience has been that if you teach the kids correctly, there is no difference between Asian and non-Asian children.
    One other aspect that also needs to be considered is what type of mathematics are the Asian children good at? Sure, they are great at knowing their tables, etc. etc. but at the top end all kids are good at those things. My experience has been that Asian children raised initially taught in Asian schools excel at number work and algebraic manipulation but come a cropper when presented with a problem that requires thinking outside the box. They can be trained to do this, but it is not something with which they are naturally familiar.
    A very large amount of research has gone into this and there are probably hundreds of academic papers one can read about it.
    One last comment. Is it Asian overachievement or non-Asian underachievement?

  7. Karvol

    Karvol Occasional commenter

    Blah, blah, blah, blah.
    As I thought, still a petulant little boy pretending to be an adult.
    Enjoy the conversation with yourself.

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