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Math by numbers

The myth has been debunked. Not all Asians are good at math. India, it seems, is a prime example. The Times of India points out, when comparing mathematic proficiency levels of 15-year-olds from 73 countries, Indian students “stood second to last, only beating Kyrgyzstan”. However, recent studies reveal that this is a bit of an exception to the rule.

The recently OECD’s released Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2009+ report compares academic knowledge of 15-year-olds in 44 countries. Notably, the top five performers in mathematical literacy were Shanghai, Singapore, Hong Kong, Korea and Taipei in that order. Their mean scores were 600, 562, 555, 546 and 543 respectively. At the bottom of the heap is India (338) and Kyrgyzstan (331). The OECD average score was 496.

The Asian Scientist points out top-scoring Shanghai students achieved a 75 percent math proficiency rate, more than double the 32 percent for the United States. In the following countries, a majority of students performed at the proficient level: Singapore (62 percent), Hong Kong (61 percent), Korea (58 percent), Finland (56 percent) and Taiwan (55 percent).

The slightly older Trend in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) 2007 report, which compares student academic achievement from 49 countries and seven benchmark participants, showed similar results. The five highest achievers in math were once again all Asian countries: Taipei, South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan. – Tenzing Y Thondup