« Outliers! | Main | Teachers and Quarterbacks »

Comments

Jonathan Mendelsohn

If I may, I just want to go (way) back to John M.'s comment that math is hard and Americans are lazy. I think we are all, by nature, lazy and that whatever our society values and promotes is what we model, force, instruct, or try to get our children working at. What you work at is generally what you excel at, no?

Again and again, Malcolm, your work affirms my firm belief that no one is born a genius; rather, it's the old adage: 'The harder you work, the luckier you get.' 9,987 hours to go.

Jonathan Mendelsohn

If I may, I just want to go (way) back to John M.'s comment that math is hard and Americans are lazy. I think we are all, by nature, lazy and that whatever our society values and promotes is what we model, force, instruct, or try to get our children working at. What you work at is generally what you excel at, no?

Again and again, Malcolm, your work affirms my firm belief that no one is born a genius; rather, it's the old adage: 'The harder you work, the luckier you get.' 9,987 hours to go.

joao oliveira

What is , or where can I find the solution to the raven test presented in your book...i mean how it is reaches at? great book. thkxs João Oliveira Brazil

LuEe

hahha.. Well, Mr Gladwell, i loved your books like TIP, and i from the east. How our parents program our mindsets if so far the most money guided. Everything is bout money.

Then there is school, where the teachers give tons of maths revisions. I am a teacher at a school in Malaysia which is nearby singapore and understand a fair amount of the singaporean culture.

LuEe

opps.. sorry, i mean Blink. and Tipping point. I am gonna buy outliner soon. I have to agree with Jonathon, that it's hard work. And how much hard work we get, then only that result comes out. It's torture i tell you. Even the work culture is different in the east. When i was in university taking my degree only i found that out. In the east here, even we are off work, the work follows us home and it bugs us to not get it done on time.

alex

however, once you look at the academic stars of pure mathematics, i.e. the top researchers, the asian predominance is gone. any theory regarding this?

i have a friend who claims that in china there is nothing elite about being a theoretician. according to her, there mathematical skill is valued only as long as it allows you to get a lucrative job.

Jonathan Mendelsohn

If it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill, this means, as others have commented, that the essence of success is in hard work. Since most humans are, by nature, lazy, we (as individuals and as socialized parts of our societies) make choices as to where we put those hours.

After spending five years living in Osaka, Japan, I've come to see how attention to detail and a rigorous work ethic that isn't "above" doing any kind of mundane work equals the kind of quality control necessary to make not just excellent cars and electronics, but even chocolate, stationery and the cleanliness level of your average Osaka Starbucks are far superior to their North American counterparts.

So is your average Japanese kid better at math than your average American? Yes. Probably. Will he or she build a better car? Probably. But is this kid happier? Cause isn't the real question, not just how to be successful, but why, and to what end?

Jonathan Mendelsohn

If it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill, this means, as others have commented, that the essence of success is in hard work. Since most humans are, by nature, lazy, we (as individuals and as socialized parts of our societies) make choices as to where we put those hours.

After spending five years living in Osaka, Japan, I've come to see how attention to detail and a rigorous work ethic that isn't "above" doing any kind of mundane work equals the kind of quality control necessary to make not just excellent cars and electronics, but even Japanese chocolate and stationery are far superior to their North American counterparts.

So is your average Japanese kid better at math than your average American? Yes. Probably. Will he or she build a better car? A better chocolate bar? Probably. But is this kid happier? Cause isn't the real question, not just how to be successful, but why, and to what end?

Jonathan Mendelsohn

If it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill, this means, as others have commented, that the essence of success is in hard work. Since most humans are, by nature, lazy, we (as individuals and as socialized parts of our societies) make choices as to where we put those hours.

After spending five years living in Osaka, Japan, I've come to see how attention to detail and a rigorous work ethic that isn't "above" doing any kind of mundane work equals the kind of quality control necessary to make not just excellent cars and electronics, but even Japanese chocolate and stationery that are superior to their North American counterparts.

So is your average Japanese kid better at math than your average American? Yes. Probably. Will he or she build a better car? A better chocolate bar? Probably. But is this kid happier? Cause isn't the real question, not just how to be successful, but why, and to what end?

Jonathan Mendelsohn

If it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill, this means, as others have commented, that the essence of success is in hard work. Since most humans are, by nature, lazy, we (as individuals and as socialized parts of our societies) make choices as to where we put those hours.

After spending five years living in Osaka, Japan, I've come to see how attention to detail and a rigorous work ethic that isn't "above" doing any kind of mundane work equals the kind of quality control necessary to make not just excellent cars and electronics, but even Japanese chocolate and stationery that are superior to their North American counterparts.

So is your average Japanese kid better at math than your average American? Yes. Probably. Will he or she build a better car? A better chocolate bar? Probably. But is this kid happier? Cause isn't the real question, not just how to be successful, but why, and to what end?

Jonathan Mendelsohn

If it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill, this means, as others have commented, that the essence of success is in hard work. Since most humans are, by nature, lazy, we (as individuals and as socialized parts of our societies) make choices as to where we put those hours.

After spending five years living in Osaka, Japan, I've come to see how attention to detail and a rigorous work ethic that isn't "above" doing any kind of mundane work equals the kind of quality control necessary to make not just excellent cars and electronics, but even Japanese chocolate and stationery that are superior to their North American counterparts.

So is your average Japanese kid better at math than your average American? Yes. Probably. Will he or she build a better car? A better chocolate bar? Probably. But is this kid happier? Cause isn't the real question, not just how to be successful, but why, and to what end?

Rob Gonzalez

I think the real question is: at what point in a society does having a higher rate of students passing the test actually matter? The fact that tons of East Asians dominate math tests compared to western counterparts might actually not matter at all. It's like your chapters on genius; at some point, extra IQ is less important than other factors. An individual just has to be smart enough, so maybe a society just has to have enough people who are good at math (some ratio that leads to enough engineers, etc.).

I'd like to underscore this a little. I participated in MathCounts when I was in 8th grade and had a perfect score on my SAT math section, and a 5 on the AP BC Calc exam. I majored in Math in college, and now work in the software industry. Other than having a decent working knowledge of statistics (which isn't taught of tested for in the same way that, say, pre-calc or trig are in the US, which is just ridiculous), I hardly use the skill at all on a day-to-day basis. Even when I was still an engineer, I didn't use a great deal of math.

Maybe we're focusing on the wrong thing. For example, maybe it's much more interesting for students to understand how to set up an experiment than it is for them to know the number of degrees in a triangle or the quadratic formula.

Nirav Kanodra

I dont understand, in a study of Math abilities India doesnt come in anywhere?
Indian students put in more hours in Math classes, computer science, Engineering, or accounting is most common graduation degrees?

Also in my native tongue Gujarati there is a cultural saying (losely translated)
Its more important to know how to count than to read.

Gunalan

hello
I saw your interview on CBC Sunday. A question comes to mind regarding the children in Asia vs Western countries.
If an Asian kid went to school in western countries, will their potential to succeed lower or will it remain the same because of how the parents were brought up and vise versa.
Than you

Peter Simmons

I had heard about the Asian math prowess, but when I lived in Japan in the 90s teaching English, I was not that impressed with their math skills. One of my students tried to convince me that there was only one way to do a calculus problem. Even after I did it a different way and got the same result, he wasn't convinced.
I went to school in Jamaica following the British A level system, and my experience is that the North American school (K to 12) system is too weak in the curriculum. I went to University of Waterloo and found that most of the first year engineering curriculum was a repeat of my last years of high school in Jamaica.
My point here is that given the proper curriculum and motivation, we could get a lot more out of students despite the different cultures than we are getting right now.

nm

This is a book that I thought should have been written a long time ago. I've always suspected some of these things.

Here is another amazin outlier, especially when you consider that humans walking on the moon is one of the greatest acheivements of the entire earth's civilization. Only 12 people in history have walked on the moon, all were from the US and 6 of them were born in 1930. There is obviously a story around WW II aces, formation of NASA, US leadership in science, the Cold War and a number of other things that led to this highly concentrated group of people.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Apollo_astronauts#People_who_have_walked_on_the_Moon

dan roddy

@jim

The numbers thing goes for more than one to ten. The numbers 11 through 19 are irregular and in themselves need learning. Then it becomes a regular pattern at 20 and on.

By way of comparison, the only Eastern system I am familiar with, Japanese,is systematic from 1-100 and beyond (though curiously has a two syllable number 7). By this, I mean that 12 is said like ten-two, just like 22 is twenty-two. This surely makes understanding the numbering system easier.

kochevnik

I haven't seen a single person mention the obvious - average IQ among asians is higher. I will add, having taught in China and the US, I think the asian culture just VALUES intelligence much more than the west - it's not even a close comparison.

Not PC, but it's absolutely part of the equation :)

Dave

As a teacher, I find Gladwell's comments are very pertinent to the current crisis in education. In Ontario Canada, we are softening standards in order to retain students and reduce failure rates. Perhaps some deep thinking by administators who read his book will lead to a better solution.

Dave

Hopefully,this book will inspire administrators make changes to the educational system so that retention and pass rates for students can be improved withoutlowering standards.

Dave

Malcolm,

I think T.V. above hit the nail on the head. While it is difficult to refute that schoolchildren from certain Asian countries perform better in standardized math and science exams, your argument suffers from a fatal flaw -- namely your failure to explain why schoolchildren in South East Asian countries do not perform at the same level. Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia have a long history of rice cropping. Until you can explain why children from these nations radically underperform, your thesis is not fully formed.

Tea

This is something I've long been interested in. I've been teaching math in English and Hindi as a volunteer for a long time, and after a few years I tried the following approach in English:

Say "ten-one, ten-two,...," for eleven, twelve, etc. and "two-ten, three-ten" instead of twenty, thirty, etc. In my experience, the kids I taught this way picked up basic math skills much faster. During the three week session (one hour a day each day) the children normally finished with one-digit multiplication (starting from not knowing any math).

This group got all the way to long division. I'm firmly convinced that the language makes a huge difference.

David Shin

A universal trait of young children is that they are very eager to please their parents. In situations where parents and societies constantly provide positive (and negative) reinforcement for academic performance, especially mathematics, it seems obvious these children will perform much better than their counterparts where such reinforcements are not as readily provided. Magnifying this disparity is also the fact that the academic standards that are instituted in some countries in Asia are very stringent.

I live in Singapore and my children attend the Singapore American school. The math GATE program is filled with mostly students of Asian ethnicity, most of whom are not fluent in Chinese characters. My speculation, since I cannot provide any scientific data, is that parental reinforcements, both explicit and implicit, negative and positive, are more at work here than one may suspect.


Fernando Barcena

THE GOLDEN RULE OF MATH
Actually the reason that Asian country students perform better at math is that the curriculum for 4th grade students in these countries include being taught in some fashion the math concept that the Identity Rule is the CORE MATH CONCEPT. This understanding is why they perform so well as a group in math. The argument that the asian languages create some intellectual advantage does not explain why other non-asian speaking countries also perform at high levels. Those countries that understand the importance of the Identity Rule refer to it as The Golden Rule of Math.

Any person with good math skills knows the Identity Rule. What appears to be less obvious to educators in the U.S. (based on U.S. student math performance) is that the IDENTITY RULE is the CORE MATH CONCEPT, and that it can be easily taught. My contention is that these concepts can be understood by a student within an hour to an hour and a half, and that once understood (the Gestalt) by the student, the student can then easily understand all subsequent math instruction, without any further tutoring. An understanding of how to use the Identity Rule to manipulate fractions gives the student the ability to perform in math in the 98th percentiles, throughout elementary and high school just like students in asian countries.

I can provide a two page tutorial that only takes an hour to an hour and a half to walk a fourth grade student through. f.barcena35@comcast.net

dinah daugherty

I am an educator. I recently attended an educational conference in which Dr.Doug Clements, a mathematics professor in the education dept. at the Univ. of Buffalo, outlined some ideas from his extensive research in early childhood education.
He presented statistics that indicate that American children from affluent and/or advantaged homes actually scored just as well as Asian children on Mathematics tests. However, children from low economic areas in the U.S. scored at such a low level (comparable to children in Nigeria) that the combined scores brought the average down to a lower level overall. The problem appeared to be that there is a vast disparity in the math scores of affluent and more disadvantaged children in America.

For some reason, this large difference does not exist to such a great degree in Asian countries, or perhaps only some children are tested in Asian countries.
It would be better for you to actually read Clements's data to fully see the disparity. He has conducted research in several countries and he is part of a National Research Grant. Clements also has some theories about the way math is taught in the U.S.
The "rice paddy" farm ethics theory that you presented on Charlie Rose tonight was convincing, but I think that there is something else which motivates a mathematics interest. What about your father?
I agree about the work ethic idea in Asia, but the problem solving skills in Asian children does not appear to be as well developed as it is in children from other countries. I taught Asian children for a short time, so I have other theories, as well. (that is another story)
I certainly wish that the thinking and analyzing skills that you practice were more encouraged in our schools.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

Bio

  • I'm a writer for the New Yorker magazine, and the author of four books, "The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference", "Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking" and "Outliers: The Story of Success." My latest book, "What the Dog Saw" is a compilation of stories published in The New Yorker. I was born in England, and raised in southwestern Ontario in Canada. Now I live in New York City.

    My great claim to fame is that I'm from the town where they invented the BlackBerry. My family also believes (with some justification) that we are distantly related to Colin Powell. I invite you to look closely at the photograph above and draw your own conclusions.

My Website

Books

  • What the Dog Saw

    buy from amazon

    Outliers

    buy from amazon

    buy from amazon UK

    Blink

    buy from amazon

    buy from amazon UK

    Tipping Point

    buy from amazon

Recent Articles

Blog powered by Typepad