Mother Tongue May Determine Maths Skills

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Trooper, Oct 8, 2014.

  1. Trooper Secular Sanity Valued Senior Member

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  3. mathman Valued Senior Member

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    I doubt if it has anything to do with language. I suspect it has more to do with family culture.
     
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  5. sculptor Valued Senior Member

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    I didn't see anything about having a control group of first language english speaking descendents of all chinese ancestors.
    even with that
    you'd still need to control for prior abacus use.

    From your link it seems just an interesting idea in need of more rigorous study.
     
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  7. rcscwc Registered Senior Member

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    And culture includes foundation of mother tongue too.


    How will you discount the mental math background of Indians?

    What about Indian kids winning Spelling Bee, nearly as a right?
     
  8. sculptor Valued Senior Member

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    A...I wouldn't
    B...Seems like it would be an interesting subject for study.

    Psychology and cultural anthropology studies are a major interest, but I have seen too many without comprehensive controls...
     
  9. Landau Roof Registered Senior Member

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    There are a billion and a half Chinese. Hundreds of thousands, millions even, must have poor math skills. Some people excel at math without the advantage of being Chinese. perhaps they're looking for co-relations where none exists. People are people. Some are good at verbal skills, or spatial skills or sports or music. Some are not. Most are a bewildering mishmash. What could culture have to do with it when geniuses and morons can be found in any country?
     
  10. sculptor Valued Senior Member

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    "culture" is pattern
    genetics is pattern

    interplays of patterns are places where one may find both blending or strengthening of nuanced understandings and the outliers

    Once the blending is understood:
    It is the outliers which have always piqued my interests.
     
  11. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    There are some obvious advantages doing mental arithmetic in some languages and not others - the number words are shorter in Mandarin (less load on short term processing memory), the way numbers are named in Japanese and Mandarin and some others automatically includes the place value designations elementary schoolteachers have to spend weeks inculcating in English speakers (it's "ten and three", not "thirteen"), the deliberate regulation of the double negative in English seems to me (in my tutoring experience) to ease the grasp of negative number manipulation by English speakers compared with Spanish speakers, and so forth.

    But the biggest advantage I've seen from the use of this or that language in teaching basic arithmetic or math comes from the use of a foreign or second language, rather than the student's mother tongue. That really seems to help - the work of unlearning or ignoring misleading connotations seems to be a greater obstacle than any features of a particular language. Just an impression I've had.
     
  12. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    Of course it does. Chinese nouns and pronouns have no gender. If you want to specify that the person serving you in a restaurant is female, you have to call her a "female server," not a "waitress," otherwise she's just a "server" like the men doing the same job. This makes gender a lot less important to them.

    In heavily inflected languages like Latin, word order is much less important than in English. So they can rearrange the words in the sentence for emphasis, rather than inserting extra words to make the point.

    Sure, but I'm not buying the premise that it's due to their language. Chinese is the only Asian language that I know very well, but I don't see anything in its structure that would improve math skills. They just take education more seriously over there.
     
  13. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    The strongest so far measured cultural correlation with international math test scores is the ratio of omega3/omega6 dietary fat in the breast milk of nursing mothers. http://www.news.ucsb.edu/2014/014386/hold-mayo
     
  14. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    That's the graph, math test scores vertical axis, dietary fat ratio horizontal axis. The correlation between math test scores and language kind is seen to be interpretable as an artifact of an underlying correlation between language and diet. Or maybe not - some countries, like the US and China, do better on math tests than diet predicts.
     
  15. rcscwc Registered Senior Member

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    Not mother tongue but initial instructions in mother tongue does matter.
     
  16. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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  17. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    It's also possible that people who choose to eat better are simply smarter.
     
  18. Trooper Secular Sanity Valued Senior Member

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    When you think of time, do you picture it horizontally or vertically? I always think of it as horizontal but Mandarin speakers think of it as vertical. That’s weird, isn't it?
     
  19. sculptor Valued Senior Member

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    horizontal
    left to right
     
  20. Trooper Secular Sanity Valued Senior Member

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    Oh, I didn't even think about the direction. You're right. Me, too. Left to right. That's strange.

    Thanks!
     
  21. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    Chinese is traditionally written that way: top-to-bottom, then right to left. Japanese is also written that way.

    It's only in the modern era that Chinese publications have begun to be written left-to-right, then top-to-bottom.
     
  22. rcscwc Registered Senior Member

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    Skill testing can be reliable only if conducted in mother tongue.
     
  23. Landau Roof Registered Senior Member

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    Asians are better at math, because, because, what now? Isn't it about time we continued this discussion in The Cesspool?
     

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