Why My Asian Students are Good with Numbers

Why My Asian Students are Good with Numbers


After reading Outliers and examining my own experience, I agree that the counting systems of East Asian languages are initial advantages to learning numbers. I was inspired to sync this advantage into English number learning. English teachers please read on and comment.


~   In order to count from 1 to 99 in Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean the counter manipulates roughly ten words.


~   In order to count from 1 to 99 in English the counter uses 26 unique words.


— English requires almost three times as much vocabulary to count. Therefor native English speakers become numerically literate three times slower than their Asian counter part.


~~ The Asian systems are intuitive: “ten – seven”  = 17

“ ten – one”     = 11

“ seven – ten –  three” = 73


~~ The English system is befuddled with similar roots  “ Seven – ten ” = 17  &  70



To synthesize the logical mismatch, I designed a system for teaching English counting to Asian children. I use Chinese Sign Language, which follows the logical pattern of Asian languages (two – ten – five = 25) to represent English numbers. Chinese sign language only has ten, where ASL has over 30 unique signs to count to 99. Unbeknown to my students, my gestures are triggering their numeric logic, eliciting English, and weaving the two together.



In conclusion the success of this method is its consideration of the logic grooves already carved into a child’s mind. It attaches new information to existing intuition, rather than storing them separately. It also represents a shift from using methods created by methodologists, to experimenting with my own methods. Moving from educator to educationalist.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G-flvQJ9uKI&feature=youtu.be






One thought on “Why My Asian Students are Good with Numbers

  1. Deren, what a good teacher you are becoming! Knowing other languages is giving you a unique advantage. This blog on the names of numbers in English versus other languages is fascinating.

    Best Regards,
    Aunt Wendy

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