T Nation

Chinese Uni. Entry Math Question

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/education/6589301.stm

All I have to say is wow. Does anyone have a college entry math question for the states? I know I had to take a math placement exam when I did my orientation for college but I can’t remember for the life of me how difficult it was.

I think I might have been able to answer that problem when I first went to college, not anymore though.

I didn’t see the point in high school, I didn’t see the point in college, and I don’t see the point of that now. Last time I used pythagoreans theorem was 1999.

So the chinese are better at solving stupid equations that 1% of the worldwide population needs to know how to solve. 3/4ths of that 1% are the people that write the books.

I had an OTL team once…our name was “Our d*cks are harder than Chineese Math!”

[quote]deapee wrote:
I didn’t see the point in high school, I didn’t see the point in college, and I don’t see the point of that now. Last time I used pythagoreans theorem was 1999.

So the chinese are better at solving stupid equations that 1% of the worldwide population needs to know how to solve. 3/4ths of that 1% are the people that write the books.[/quote]

3/4ths??? There are a lot more engineers around than you know, and yes, many engineers need to know that stuff.

[quote]evansmi wrote:
deapee wrote:
I didn’t see the point in high school, I didn’t see the point in college, and I don’t see the point of that now. Last time I used pythagoreans theorem was 1999.

So the chinese are better at solving stupid equations that 1% of the worldwide population needs to know how to solve. 3/4ths of that 1% are the people that write the books.

3/4ths??? There are a lot more engineers around than you know, and yes, many engineers need to know that stuff.[/quote]

Doesn’t look that hard. Just tedious. Basic geometry. People use that stuff every day.

I don’t really see why they chose a geometry question. It seems that geometry is less universally applicable than algebra or calculus.

[quote]Zap Branigan wrote:
Doesn’t look that hard. Just tedious. Basic geometry. People use that stuff every day.[/quote]

I agree. Also, the second question is trivial.

[quote]Ren wrote:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/education/6589301.stm

All I have to say is wow. Does anyone have a college entry math question for the states? I know I had to take a math placement exam when I did my orientation for college but I can’t remember for the life of me how difficult it was.

I think I might have been able to answer that problem when I first went to college, not anymore though.[/quote]

Who cares? China is still as fucked up as Hogan’s goat.

[quote]deapee wrote:
I didn’t see the point in high school, I didn’t see the point in college, and I don’t see the point of that now. Last time I used pythagoreans theorem was 1999.
[/quote]

Even if you are not an engineer, I feel that math teaches one how to develop a logical method for problem solving that is transferable. Now logic is not ALWAYS the main ingredient in problem solving but it often is.

1.) The sad thing is that most people in the US “don’t see the point” in learning math.

2.) The other sad thing is how embarrassingly easy that second question is. Anybody with some ability and interest in math would find that problem trivial in middle school.

The first question would not be easy, but is certainly a question that most students in a math or related (engineering, physics etc.) major at a top American school would be able to do as incoming freshman. I had the tools on how to solve that problem after I took Geometry in the 8th grade, although I’m sure I didn’t have the logic and reasoning to sort it out until later.

I think a big part of the problem is the way math, and many other subjects, are taught in American schools. Much more time is spent memorizing and learning what is going to be on the test, rather than trying to gain a thorough understanding of a particular problem. I bet American students cover more topics than Asian students, yet their understanding of each topic is comparatively very poor.

[quote]entheogens wrote:
deapee wrote:
I didn’t see the point in high school, I didn’t see the point in college, and I don’t see the point of that now. Last time I used pythagoreans theorem was 1999.

Even if you are not an engineer, I feel that math teaches one how to develop a logical method for problem solving that is transferable. Now logic is not ALWAYS the main ingredient in problem solving but it often is.

[/quote]

I agree 100%. The “point” in education, at leat about 95% of it, is to teach how to think and analyze.

I have used math and logic in my line of work, mostly to design really cool Excel spreadsheets.

I also agree with Zap that the problem isn’t hard, per se, just tedious. However, that is another facet of real life. The ability to sit and do really tedious stuff abounds in the real world.

[quote]entheogens wrote:
Even if you are not an engineer, I feel that math teaches one how to develop a logical method for problem solving that is transferable. Now logic is not ALWAYS the main ingredient in problem solving but it often is.[/quote]

I agree with you to a certain extent. Math I cannot “visualize” in any way. It has always been my weakest subject. Proofs drove me out of my mind.

An entry level college (engineering) physics class was one of the best classes I ever experienced. The instructor could take any complex problem and boil it down to the “known” and the “unknown”. Then he’d take it step by step.

If only grade school instructors could teach kids to do word problems like this from the beginning…

I did not find them that hard, especially the 2nd. As said before the first one is tedious and long but not that hard.

[quote]Zap Branigan wrote:
evansmi wrote:
deapee wrote:
I didn’t see the point in high school, I didn’t see the point in college, and I don’t see the point of that now. Last time I used pythagoreans theorem was 1999.

So the chinese are better at solving stupid equations that 1% of the worldwide population needs to know how to solve. 3/4ths of that 1% are the people that write the books.

3/4ths??? There are a lot more engineers around than you know, and yes, many engineers need to know that stuff.

Doesn’t look that hard. Just tedious. Basic geometry. People use that stuff every day.[/quote]

Well, I wouldn’t say basic geometry, since I don’t think basic geometry (the stuff most US students learn in highs chool) teaches angles between planes or angles between noncoplanar lines. However, the first problem can be easily solved with some basic linear algebra (vectors, etc.), which can be learned even in the US by as early as 10th or 11th grade.

And the second question is trivial because it shows how much easier college UK math problem are than high school Chinese math problems.

The question is hard, but not impossible for a high school student. I know that the better students in some of my old classes could solve it with a bit of thought, but the whole point of a test is that some of the questions will be too hard for most of the students to solve. If everyone gets everything right on an entranace exam that’s supposed to differentiate students, what’s the point?

[quote]blooey wrote:
If everyone gets everything right on an entranace exam that’s supposed to differentiate students, what’s the point?[/quote]

It’s a bit scary to think that students applying to a university in the UK would fail the second problem.

I showed this to my friend from China and she told me that this is a high school entrance math question. She said she couldn’t even do the University one and that’s why she came to study in Canada.

[quote]pookie wrote:
blooey wrote:
If everyone gets everything right on an entranace exam that’s supposed to differentiate students, what’s the point?

It’s a bit scary to think that students applying to a university in the UK would fail the second problem.
[/quote]

That’s true, but a diagnostic test (or any test, really) should have problems of varying difficulty in order to measure the level of understanding of the student. I would wager that the Chinese test also has some really easy questions. The UK one may have some hard ones as well, but the two tests have different aims. One is to differentiate students so that they go to an appropriate college. The other is to measure a basic level of understanding.

It’s not about how hard the questions are on a test, but how many people get them right. I can’t remember off the top of my head whether there are worldwide standardized tests to measure differences between nations. I would think yes, but I really don’t recall.

[quote]blooey wrote:
pookie wrote:
blooey wrote:
If everyone gets everything right on an entranace exam that’s supposed to differentiate students, what’s the point?

It’s a bit scary to think that students applying to a university in the UK would fail the second problem.

That’s true, but a diagnostic test (or any test, really) should have problems of varying difficulty in order to measure the level of understanding of the student. I would wager that the Chinese test also has some really easy questions. The UK one may have some hard ones as well, but the two tests have different aims. One is to differentiate students so that they go to an appropriate college. The other is to measure a basic level of understanding.

It’s not about how hard the questions are on a test, but how many people get them right. I can’t remember off the top of my head whether there are worldwide standardized tests to measure differences between nations. I would think yes, but I really don’t recall.[/quote]

Excellent point. This information was presented as “infotainment” and probably does not accurately reflect the relative difficulties of each test.

[quote]jtrinsey wrote:
I think a big part of the problem is the way math, and many other subjects, are taught in American schools. Much more time is spent memorizing and learning what is going to be on the test, rather than trying to gain a thorough understanding of a particular problem. I bet American students cover more topics than Asian students, yet their understanding of each topic is comparatively very poor. [/quote]

On the contrary, I think memorizing a vast amount of material without understanding it is a trademark of school systems in China and India. It’s a sad fact that more and more material is being pushed into the same 12 years of education.

As for the original article, this seems like a publicity stunt more than anything. Just because the Chinese problem is a complicated-looking shape doesn’t mean it’s insanely hard.

In any case, if I had to test a high school graduate’s math skills to see whether they deserve to enter engineering or the sciences, I would test calculus, not geometry.

It seemed hard to me, but then again, I need a calculator to count to 5.