Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Math Around the World

Every semester I invite a group of International students studying at St. Mike's to come to my math education class to be interviewed by my students. The purpose of the activity is for my students to realize that math is not the same the world over and that they will be faced with procedural math problems that they might not, at first, understand.

This semester we met with a group of students from China, Japan, Congo, Saudi Arabia and Spain. Using the Multicultural math interview i have developed over the years for my research my students got to know the math of a variety of countries from around the world. There was much laughter from both my students and the International students when they showed each how they did, for example,  subtraction problems or multiplication problems. They were also fascinated by the numbers that have significance in each culture. The international students from China had no idea that 13 was unlucky in the the US and the US students had no idea that 4 was an unlucky number in most Asian languages because the word for four sounds like the word for death.

One of the great bi-products of this experience is that the international students get to meet more SMC students on campus which helps them feel more at home as they go about their studies. I was once an international student, in 1977, and know what it's like to be i a new land with new methods, social expectations and, yes, a different language. It was George Bernard Shaw who said that the UK and US are two countries separated by a common language. You should have seen the look on the students faces when I asked where the rubber was so I could erase the chalk board!

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