Mary McConnell: Tiger mothers and Lake Wobegon kids: is it time to 'Shanghai' our math students?

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  • Kitenoa Salt Lake City, UT
    Jan. 18, 2011 9:51 a.m.

    Math is a language that describe the universe. To understand and communicate in the vocabularies, sentences, formats, strategies, and applications of this integral and encompassing language is to be truly educated in both the art forms and scientific discovery. All knowledge is clarified.

    I do believe in the above approach and making math meaningful and enjoyable. I have taught in non-class room environment, number systems, arithmetics, algebra, geometry, and calculus with the above approach. It is much easier to learn higher math when students are converted to the enjoyment of math while children, just as with other languages.

  • Considering Stockton, UT
    Jan. 17, 2011 2:29 p.m.

    The diversity of opinion on how best to raise children is one stark example of why we need to be very careful about allowing government to impose one-size-fits-all solutions or mandates in what should be personal areas of life.

    Every family is different, most children with a given family also have some very distinct personality traits, talents, and challenges even when compared to their siblings in the same home. Indeed, even the author of this "controversial" book makes clear that her parenting style changed a lot with her youngest child when compared to how she raised her older children.

    I'm working hard to be a good parent, but I don't think for one minute I know well enough how to raise YOUR children to be telling you what to do differently. Short of obvious and criminal abuse or neglect I think parents' decisions need great respect. That said, I think excessive permissiveness is far more prevalent and problematic than is setting expectations too high.

    Personally, I figure my kids need a parent, not another "friend." If I do ok raising them, we can be buddies when they are adults.

  • Wally Ballou Cedar City, UT
    Jan. 17, 2011 1:18 p.m.

    Does Chua describe the point at which one should decide the child is worthless and cut them loose? That's part of the Chinese tradition too.

  • Cedarite Cedar City, UT
    Jan. 17, 2011 12:17 p.m.

    I had a tiger mother. Even as an adult, I utterly despise her. While I will always make sure she has a roof over her head and does not go hungry, I will never love her and try to have as little to do with her as possible. Everything I achieved, I achieved in spite of her, and as far away from her as I could afford to get.

  • Independent Woman West Jordan, UT
    Jan. 17, 2011 9:16 a.m.

    One of the biggest problems we have in US education is No Child Left Behind. That involves teaching to the test and not worrying about whether anyone is really getting it.
    Also to compare the US with China in any way is unfair because we try to teach all our children (see above) while, as far as I know, they separate those who have learning disabilities, health problems, low IQs, etc. If I am wrong, I hope someone can show me how it really is.
    At any rate, I think this whole way of rasing children should be considered child abuse.

  • A Guy With A Brain Enid, OK
    Jan. 17, 2011 12:08 a.m.

    @ happymomto7 & durwood kirby -

    How do kids get a GPA above 4.0?

    Here in Oklahoma they get A's in accelarated/enriched classes that are more difficult than the standard class in a simlar subject.

    So, yes, I'm telling the truth that my 2 oldest kids have over a 4.0 GPA. One will graduate soon from an elite highschool boarding school called the Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics and the other one will probably graudate as valedictorian or salutatorian. Very driven. I'm very proud of them but, no, they didn't get that kind of drive from me. It's all them...well, and my wife's involvement in their studies. She makes sure that she know what classes they're taking, how they're doing and asks them constantly about what they're learning in class but the actual sitting down and doing homework they do all on their own.


  • 1hemlock Tooele, Utah
    Jan. 16, 2011 9:26 a.m.

    Ms. Chua's book is about raising successful kids. She's right about the approach. She taught her daughters the discipline one needs to be successful. As for comments that it will "ruin" kids . . . not so. Our cities are filled with so many high school dropouts that had NO discipline at home and rejected the discipline at school. I don't know any "ruined" high school dropouts but I know so so many grateful, successful kids that, because of their disciplined education, have been able to contribute to society. How many adults say, "I wish my Mom had MADE me take piano lessons". With the discipline, service and compassion can be fostered. But you can have a very compassionate individual that cannot provide for their family, can't help others like they would like because they didn't learn the discipline necessary for success.
    We have good examples of children being "harrowed up" by comments their parent(s) has made, and then the child responds and changes and measures up. Comments that, "they are only children once" are very true. You get one chance to teach them discipline.

  • Formerspud South Jordan, UT
    Jan. 15, 2011 6:25 p.m.

    The key to Singapore math is parent involvement. Actually the key is parent involvement. I was expected to perform and I did. There were no excuses. Today as a teacher I hear lots of excuses, and unfortunately some come from teachers. We are frustrated because we don't feel like we can motivate students. We are tired of being blamed for low test scores when we have spent so much extra time learning and preparing. I love math and I love my students but it's not as easy as some people think it is.

  • noinipo Salt Lake City, UT
    Jan. 15, 2011 11:47 a.m.

    I don't think drilling math and an 'A' state of mind in our kids will always work.

    Around third grade, kids begin learning their multiplication, something I could never master (I got stuck on the 4's), but I knew the concept, multiplication is just adding groups of things. I couldn't do it fast, and got poor grades that term, but I knew what I was doing and always finished my math homework in class with plenty of time to spare.

    I knew how to do it, I just couldn't do it fast and at times thought I was a failure because other kids were on 9's, 10's, and 11's before I got to 5's.

    Currently I could beat all of them with the double, and triple integrals I have been doing in my Calculus II class.

    I think students need to motivate themselves to learn to love what they want to love and become passionate about it, and I LOVE math!

  • logical Meridian, ID
    Jan. 15, 2011 10:56 a.m.

    I teach "developemental" math at a community college. My students range from just out of HS to 20+ years since HS. I teach the math that they had 4 years in Junior High and 3 years in High school to learn. I teach it in 16 weeks. If they pass they go onto Beginning Algebra, again a middle school subject. My students are hampered with not being able to do multipication, division, fractions, decimals, etc., and they are totaly dependent upon the calculator.

    I also subsitute in my local school district for all grades. I espcially look for opportunities to teach math. I also had 5 kids go through the system. My expereince has been that most elemetary teachers do not like teaching math and thus do it poorly. College math for educators is dumbed down at best and is trivial. If they were required to take regular math classes through 1st year calculus, they would have a better understanding of what they need to teach.

  • Laura Ann Layton, UT
    Jan. 15, 2011 10:26 a.m.

    I meant classes not scores. Also, I would have gotten a Level 3 in language arts if the classes had been offered to me. Unfortunately, they no longer offer the math opportunities for regular teachers to earn the higher math Levels. Bummer. My students all know that math is 'beloved and an eternal concept.' I think teacher attitude can also make a difference. Long live Rene DeCarte!

  • sally Kearns, UT
    Jan. 15, 2011 10:24 a.m.

    Here was our dilemma in math learning. Two of our children learned and understood the math concepts. They scored A's on their tests. They also had 32's on the math section of their ACT scores in high school. They also helped other students understand the concepts in class when the teacher was unable to. Both of them received failing grades from their teachers because they did not do their homework. The rules of the schools they attended (schools from two different states) required homework whether they already understood what was being taught. Should a grade be based on doing homework or learning and understanding the material? If they can prove they understand the concepts why do they need to do the homework?

  • Laura Ann Layton, UT
    Jan. 15, 2011 10:21 a.m.

    I taught fourth grade and I have a Level 3 math endorsement. (It took me almost four years to earn it and I took real classes, such as a year of calculus and beyond.) As a result, my students always scored better on the yearly tests. I didn't do as well in language arts. My students always ranked high, but I was better at teaching math. Many teachers are unprepared to teach math and saddest thing of all is when I get a note from a parent telling me they don't understand the math and can't help their child with it, regardless of the fact that there is at least one example on the top of the page. Parents allowing their children to be lazy is a problem I've dealt with for years. It would have served me better to have gotten a degree with more difficult math and language arts scores. Instead, I had to sit through boring classes on 'How to Teach Math.' Well, I can't teach if I don't understand it and there are lessons plans in the teacher's manual. I don't think the Singapore math would work here.

  • formerUT Osawatomie, KS
    Jan. 15, 2011 9:48 a.m.

    My2Cents: READING is the backbone to life--

    NOT math!!!

    You can't learn how to do math unless you know how to READ!!!!

    That is something you learn when you have an education in EDUCATION!!

    OH--and yes--I have an extensive one--oh, and yes EXTENSIVE research shows this as well.

    Don't say things you know nothing about!

  • homers Provo, UT
    Jan. 15, 2011 9:10 a.m.

    Anyone who calls their kids garbage shouldn't be looked to as an expert of any kind in parenting. She should be ashamed. Means justify the ends argument is just simply bad parenting - it leads to self centered, self superiority, and lack of compassion. What traits do you want in your kids?

  • Springvillepoet Springville, UT
    Jan. 15, 2011 8:28 a.m.

    As an English teacher, I was once told by a district administrator that having my students read in class "might not be the best use of your instructional time." I had just finished my master's degree in Literacy Studies. Do you think that administrator would dare say that math teachers should spend less time teaching math computation skills?

    @ A guy with a brain: Many times the issue is that kids find no reason to rise to the occasion. Between teaching seniors and juniors, I'll take seniors every time. They see the relationship between doing the work I assign and graduating they could not see even the year before.

    Students more now than ever, are allowed to ignore the learning process. The result is many teachers who have simply given up. It's a shame, because in turn, many students simply refuse to do the work they are given. They would much rather fake it, skate by, or copy the work off of their neighbors.

    Add to that, there are too many variables (beyond student-teacher-parent) to easily say what should be done to correct the problems.

  • Milehighguy303 Aurora, CO
    Jan. 15, 2011 6:58 a.m.

    Chinese moms are also better looking too.

  • My2Cents Kearns, UT
    Jan. 15, 2011 6:22 a.m.

    This teacher and her article and insight are well beyond her years for most her age. Math is the backbone of living.

    The one reader is right, get rid of the BOE and block the UEA, NEA, and PTA from all access to education policy and funding. And that's just the beginning.

    These groups and organizations have put road blocks in the path of parents participation of their childrens education. Business and government is in charge and parents are a nuisance. Education has become a process to puppetize the population. And why are teachers allowed to stalk and monitor students in public?

    The passive attitude of parents that assume a child wants to learn is wrong, they want to play. Parents must be in charge of a family, not the children and their friends complaining about why Bobbie can't come out to play. If a child is not forced to learn then they won't learn.

    Parents from the X-gen (80's and later) are the first victims of technology based education attempts, it failed them too. This generation is clearly not in charge of their lives and rely too heavily for government directions.

  • lotzakids Alpine, UT
    Jan. 15, 2011 6:17 a.m.

    I'm not sure what the answer is here, but this is my experience. A few years ago, I was a math tutor here in a fairly affluent neighborhood. Tutored 5th through high school kids who were doing very poorly in math. Soon after I helped them master the basic multiplication facts, I would lose my job. Not because parents weren't happy with me. Because once they had these down, the kids were able to pay attention to the concepts being taught by their teachers and no longer needed extra help. It's really hard to listen if you're trying to figure out if 6x8 is 38... or 44... or is it 48??

  • formerUT Osawatomie, KS
    Jan. 14, 2011 11:40 p.m.

    Saying there is only 1 way to parent, is like saying there is only 1 way to solve a math problem.

    Neither are true.

    What both America and China need--is to quit looking for the "easy" answer--the miracle "pill" that will "fix" all children, make all children prodigies (which really--you can't do--kids either come with (to the planet) it or they don't. Believe me!), and fix all education problems.

    What is possible is not a miracle cure. What IS possible is working at it every day--over and over--trying constantly to do better.

    THIS is what students need to learn in order to succeed.

    I've known plenty of people who could recite an answer to any math problem you gave them--but couldn't figure out how to pay their bills on time.

    I've worked with students from China--who for the FIRST time in their lives, as graduate students in America--they were given the FREEDOM to choose at least SOME of their classes.

    So--you have a choice--continue to desire success that is forced and dictatorial--

    Or live with the risk that FREEDOM permits.

  • John Pack Lambert of Michigan Ypsilanti, MI
    Jan. 14, 2011 11:17 p.m.

    In my high school besides having weighted classes where one could get a 5.0 (actually even higher, see below) we had A+s. Since all As is 4.0, A+s are by definition above 4.0, so if you have say 3 As and 3 A+s you will be above a 4.0.

    Arguably this is an example of grade inflation, which is also arguably one of the problems we have in our education system.

  • John Pack Lambert of Michigan Ypsilanti, MI
    Jan. 14, 2011 11:11 p.m.

    From having observed some math teaching in an inner-city school in the United States I would say that some American math teachers teach relentlesslty to the test. The school district in question also ranks very low in all test scores. Teaching to the test is often counter-productive.

    If students know math, they will do well on tests. If they know how to try and figure the thought process of the test, this is less certain.

  • atl134 Salt Lake City, UT
    Jan. 14, 2011 10:59 p.m.

    I wish I could edit... anyway in my previous post flip weighted and unweighted around.

  • atl134 Salt Lake City, UT
    Jan. 14, 2011 10:58 p.m.

    At my school in Maryland honors and AP classes (stuff like that) had a weighted GPA of 5.0. So we had both weighted (out of 4.0 for all classes) and unweighted GPA's (where the harder ones are out of 5). It helps distinguish who has been taking harder classes rather than a bunch of strength training classes for athletes.

  • durwood kirby South Jordan, UT
    Jan. 14, 2011 10:53 p.m.

    Guy with a Brain: This is a math discussion. How does one get above a 4.0 GPA? Must be on a scale of 10.0.

    We hear about how the teacher unions are ruining education, that we have lousy teachers, blaa, blaa, blaa.

    Ever tried to teach math to 30-40 kids at once? Perhaps a more significant investment in our kids would make it more likely that math teachers (or any teachers) could actually teach with an occasional chance at real interaction.

    But as long as our state brags about how "well-managed" our fiscal situation is, and funds education at the lowest in the nation, you won't see much progress.

  • cmack lehi, ut
    Jan. 14, 2011 10:33 p.m.

    A major problem is that Teachers don't spend enough time helping students understand the real life benefits of math. They spend the majority of the time sticking to a rigid curriculum and students have difficulty understanding the significance. Teachers need to dedicate significant time teaching about different career paths and how math is applicable to those specific paths.

  • happymomto7 Saratoga Springs, UT
    Jan. 14, 2011 8:31 p.m.

    How do you get above 4.0?

    we do singapore in our homeschool starting in 7th grade. definitely challenging but pushes kids to really understand mathematical concepts.

    when i first read the new york times article i was motivated to "toughen up", but i agree there must be balance. we have to ask ourselves what success means to us.

  • cjb Bountiful, UT
    Jan. 14, 2011 7:02 p.m.

    This lady may view her way as superior, because she is so likely to raise a child prodigy, however she is also unlikely to raise a child who is likely to become an expert in some field as an adult and thus push the frontier of knowledge.

    Reason for this is she pushed too hard and thus burns her kids out at a young age, when they get older they will shun the work and dedication necessary to produce excellence at a higher level.

    That said, it is possible to offer a child an excellent education and at the same time allow a child adequate unstructured and free time, which is a necessary component to help develop creativity and a love of learning and knowledge.

    In America our schools are inferior because the quality of the material, especially in math is only so so. In China their education is inferior because they push their students too hard.

    Students raised the Chinese way are quite likely to understand Relativity at a very deep level if they end up studying physics, but they unlikely to discover relativity or anything else as significant.

  • A Guy With A Brain Enid, OK
    Jan. 14, 2011 5:11 p.m.

    I'm a dad of 4 kids, husband to a perpetual PTA volunteer, and a constant observer of our federal government.

    Want to help our kids excel in school?

    1 - Get rid of the Department of Education. All of it. We don't need it. They damage virtually everything they touch, anyway.

    2 - FIRE worthless, underperforming teachers! did you know that the state of New York has rooms (I think they are referred to as "rubber rooms"?) where bad teachers go, the ones who are no longer trusted in a classroom with students, and sit and watch TV or play cards all day, and get PAID for it, because the school districts have such a difficult time firing bad teachers? FIRE THEM!

    3 - Get rid of teacher unions. See #2 above.

    4 - Challenge the kids in school. They'll rise, or sink, to what you expect of them. Give them more homework. It would do them good to have less time to sit in front of the TV.

    5 - Parents need to get involved. Know what classes your kids are taking, know their teachers, know how they're doing in each class, help them with their homework.

  • happytobehere Alpine, Utah
    Jan. 14, 2011 4:59 p.m.

    While I do not believe that we need to belittle or threaten (well, maybe threaten a little) our children, I DO believe that there needs to be a large increase in effort and accountability. We talk and talk about how to improve education, but when the rubber meets the road it comes down to what each individual is willing to do to gain that education. I believe that our children would fair just fine, self-esteem and all, if they learned that they CAN do hard things, do them well, and to be accountable for their learning. If that means less tv or video game time, that is just a double bonus.

    And why do we so often talk about math in a derogatory way? Math is a wonderful and amazing science, and is great fun for those who have the right attitude. We as parents need to be careful about passing on a positive math attitude to our kids. Open your ears and start to listen to all the negative comments that are made in regards to math. You will be surprised how prevalent they are.

  • A Guy With A Brain Enid, OK
    Jan. 14, 2011 4:57 p.m.

    What's more important, having your kid get an A but destroying them in the process?, or nurturing them (which ALSO includes pushing them at times) where their spirit grows but they get a B?

    I'll take the B.

    A's, and the opportunities that come with them are nice, but if a child is damaged in the process, where they think they are ONLY good and worthwhile if they "get an A" (or some other worldly measuring stick), what good have you really done as a parent?

    Balance is what is needed.

    BTW, my 2 oldest kids (a senior and a sophomore in high school) both have over 4.0 GPAs.

  • atl134 Salt Lake City, UT
    Jan. 14, 2011 4:52 p.m.

    I want to see one of those Singaporean textbooks. It can't be so bad, granted I went to one of the highest scoring schools in one of the highest scoring counties (Frederick) of one of the highest scoring states (Maryland). So I doubt that... ah crap, one of the articles linked here explains how the Singapore textbooks put the county next to mine in over their heads. That's not good...

  • TRUTH Salt Lake City, UT
    Jan. 14, 2011 4:45 p.m.

    You never hear our asian-americans calling for reparations or creating bogus organizations like NAAAP or characters like Obama/Sharpton or begging for welfare......they just flat out WORK!

  • amst plano, tx
    Jan. 14, 2011 4:43 p.m.

    If it works use it if it doesn't find something that does.

  • Kermit Kaysville, UT
    Jan. 14, 2011 4:42 p.m.

    Amy Chua now has thousands and thousands of people eating out of the palm of her hand.


    Write a really controversial article that hedges on slamming a large group of people, and...

    ...then you sell a TON of books! :)

    What a smartie! Must be because she's Asian.

  • pburt Logan, UT
    Jan. 14, 2011 4:27 p.m.

    John Adams said, "I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, . . . in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry. . . ." Do we work to live or live to work. If only the best is worthwhile then almost all of us are not worthwhile.