Jeff Suzuki
Counting is the basis for all arithmetic, and research on children in China and in the U.S. reveal some disturbing facts. Chinese and American children learn to count to 10 at about the same rate. But after the age of 3, Chinese children begin to rapidly outpace their American counterparts. Thus while a typical American 4-year-old is still learning to count to 20, a typical Chinese 4-year-old is able to count to 100 without difficulty. The difference in counting abilities has some profound effects.
Thus, after just two months of school, Chinese kindergartners are able to
solve Later differences in mathematical ability could be attributed to
differing views on education. But most researchers attribute this very early
difference between children who grow up speaking an Asian language and those
who don't to the language itself. When learning to count, Chinese-speaking and
English-speaking children must learn the names of numbers from 1 through 10.
These names are ten arbitrary words that give no hint of their relationship:
It's not as easy as one-two-three, but rather as difficult as To count past 10, an English-speaking child must master a new
set of number words (collectively referred to as the To be sure, some of these words are related: there is a clear
parallel between “six-seven-eight,” “sixteen-seventeen-eighteen,” and
“sixty-seventy-eighty.” But this relationship may be more confusing than
helpful, because when children learn to In contrast, the teen numbers in Chinese are While we can't change our language, there's a good chance that
your child will, on their own, invent a number phrase like “ten and two.”
Rather than correcting this informal language, it's worth encouraging it: this
leads to the There are several advantages to such a system. First, children make the transition from counting on their fingers (which necessarily limits how high they can count) to counting verbally only after they have mastered the number words. Chinese children make this transition during preschool; English-speaking children generally do so during first grade. Second, it eases the transition to writing numbers: “four tens two” becomes “4 tens 2” and then “42,” while “forty-two” too easily becomes “40-2” and then “402.” Finally, mental addition is far easier: Compare “ten five plus ten is two tens five” to “fifteen plus ten is twenty-five.” One last point worth making: You are your child's first teacher. Since children often learn to count at home, it's worth introducing them to this form of counting as soon as they begin to wonder about counting past ten. This lays a solid foundation for later success in mathematics. |