Archive for October, 2009

Happy Halloween

Saturday, October 31st, 2009


What Max learns at school

Sunday, October 25th, 2009
good with soy sauce?

good with soy sauce?

Usually it is very hard to get Max to tell me what goes on in class. On Friday, however, he tried hard to describe the brown animals with long horns that his teacher had told him about. He knew the Chinese word but not the English translation. Though people used to eat these animals, the teacher had said, you were definitely not supposed to do that anymore. It was only after a Saturday trip to the zoo that I deciphered which animal he was talking about.

Hmm, I guess ‘don’t eat ibex’ is a useful lesson?

Math education

Friday, October 16th, 2009

In a class discussion on the differences between East and West educational systems one of my students brought up the distinction between Score and Kumon, two methods for learning math.

Kumon (which is originally from Japan) is based around pages of timed exercises. It is, according to my students, typically Asian in that it sets a  high standard and berates you if you don’t meet it.

Score, which is from California, is based more on fun and games. Instead of beating you for not being good enough, the students joked, they give out candy for every answer. * (more…)

Praise versus effort

Sunday, October 11th, 2009

This excerpt from the new book ‘Nurture Shock’ on the damaging side effects of praise is particularly interesting in the Chinese context,  as the piece notes toward the end. I’ve written before about Chinese reluctance to think of intelligence as innate. In China the smart kid is almost always the one who works the hardest.

Its not really surprising that telling your kid to try harder rather than how smart they are makes them perform better in tests. Nevertheless, I was struck by the dramatic results in teaching that intelligence can be developed.

I am a bit skeptical however on the lack of – or even negative effects  – of self esteem. It is notable that most of the research cited in the piece focuses on test results. Doesn’t the tough love approach of education on the mainland prove that in  crucial qualities like creativity and risk taking  self confidence is key?