Memory, Counting, Numeracy and the Far East !

Yesterday I allowed East Midlands Trains and Capital One Connect to carry me to Brighton and back … an interesting if surreal experience of listening to a variety of excuses about why services that should have been standard were not actually available at my time of travel. However, the journey did give me time to finish off Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book ‘Outliers‘. This book is about how we get to be where we are and what might have contributed to the success or failure of our journey. There were times, in my reading, that I felt he had slightly lost his way but, on the whole, the book offered some interesting insights. The idea that more success comes to those with birthdays in the early parts of the year being down to institutional organisation is certainly not new and could perhaps be worth passing on as a comment to Jim Rose as the structure of the primary curriculum is under discussion.

But … one of the things that did intrigue me was the idea that people from China, Japan and Korea may be better at maths because their number system is more sensible and easier to use in metal calculation.  He asserts, from his research, that if you give an English speaker and a Chinese speaker a list of numbers to remember then the Chinese person will invariably remember more, more accurately and quicker than the English person because the Chinese numbers have less letters in them to say/internalise/remember. For example … the Chinese for 4 is ‘si’  and 7 is ‘qi’ … short and sharp compared with their English equivalent. Its all down to memory span. But it means that Asian children learn to count quicker than Western children …  so in the great run of things this affects their understanding of number/ their ability to do maths and their ‘stickability’ at problems involving maths. All because of the two letter difference between ‘four’ and ‘si’ !

Now I have just paraphrased all of this so it really is necessary to read the book to get the whole story. And this is yet another reason to keep reading and keep open minded about the reasons behind things. Hope that people are writing to Jim Rose to say this.

Searching the blogs re ‘Gladwell’ I arrived at a post by Michelle Martin who finishes with : So the question is, what can we do to support making more people into “Outliers”? How can we contribute to creating an environment that breeds success? … answers here please.

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