This essay focuses on key differences in the way math is taught. East Asian children spent more days in school (240 days per year in Japan versus 180 days per year
school in the study performs about the same as the worst school in each of the other countries. These are quite enormous differences in performance. And they are differences on a real-life concrete task: math tests. So how can we make sense of these cross-national differences? First, it is important to note that there are some key differences in the way math is taught in the various schools. For example, at the time of the investigation, East Asian children spend more days in school
(240 days per year in Japan versus 180 days per year in the United States); a greater percentage of class time was devote to math education in the Asian schoolday than in the American; Asian teachers spent a greater percentage of time lecturing in the classroom compared with their American counterparts (90% in Taiwan compared with 46% in the United States); and Asian math lessons were far more likely to contain real-world examples than American lessons (approximately 80% of examples were real-world in Japan compared with about 10% of examples in American classes).
more homework to students. Fifth-graders in the United States had less than half as much homework assigned to them as Taiwanese students (Stevenson & Stigler, 1992). Such teaching differences surely play an important role in how children learn math. Second, psychological differences in the ways children and parents conceptualize learning are important to understanding these performance differences. Asian parents seem to view education as more “Big deal, an A in math. That would be a D in any other country.” central to their children’s lives than American parents do. . In contrast, only about 10% of American children wished for things relevant to education. And, tellingly, the most common wish among those 10% was to have less school!
in how education is value across cultures. Third, the cultural differences in performance also seem to be relate to the expectations of children and their mothers. Even when the children got 100% correct, some Chinese mothers respond by saying, “That’s nothing to be proud of; you should get 100% every time” (Hess, Chang, & McDevitt, 1987).
More generally, East Asian mothers direct their children’s attention to their academic failures, in an effort to correct the shortcomings, whereas European-American mothers direct their children’s attention to their successes (Ng, Pomerantz, & Lam, 2007). In sum, it appears to be far easier to meet standards of American mothers than East Asian mothers. This would suggest that American children have less reason to work hard at their studies than East Asian children. A fourth factor underlying cultural differences in math performance can be trace to the languages themselves.