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Bernice German

In the spirit of the Cook County study conducted by Brendan Reilly and Lee Goldman, we have looked for a simple way to predict score on assessments, like the TIMSS. The prediction can also point the way to improvement. So far we have two sets of four questions that correlate with Colorado's 9th grade state test, CSAP, with correlation coefficients of 0.58 and 0.62. These questions look for gaps in students' math foundations. We would love to connect with other math educators who are interested in this analysis.


"Most Likely to Succeed," The New Yorker, Dec. 15, 2008 (arguing that replacing a bad teacher with a good one triples students' learning and that the United States could massively increase improve its educational system purely by changing its system of hiring and evaluating teachers)

And where, pray, are these many thousands of 'good' teachers suddenly going to appear from?


So if you want to be a expert you may need 10k hour of practice, but gladwell's book didn't explain which profesions have experts, e.g. Nassim taleb says that the expert problem resides on the ability to see where you are, social matters or things that move are full of experts proble. Take the case of economist or the Fed STAFF,Did they need 10000 hours to foresee the foreclosures?

Vipin K. Singh

Wondering about E. Indian kids and how they did? I was wondering why you did not include them in the Asian children. When most of us think math and engineering, we can't call a list complete unless it has India mentioned in it any thoughts? I am biased though, I am Indian, but raised in the US.

Neil Keleher

I've been living in Taiwan for three years. I've looked at math books here and I think a large part of math success may be due to the influence of the abacus. While it may not be used as much now in math texts that I looked at the influence of abacus use is shown in the way they group numbers of objects the same way they do using an abacus. Numbers are less abstract and linked more to the idea of groups of objects. I've also read of one person who could count really fast and he attributed it to visualizing an abacus and using his imaginary abacus to count with.


I'm from Taiwan. My math education basically ended when I was in high school - when I chose the "humanities track" to enter the college. But I got a perfect score in GRE math section. I think it has a lot to do with the hours spent on math questions growing up. Hours and hours of math classes in elementary and junior high schools, repetitive practice on similar types of math questions over and over again, lots of homework ... It's more like the result of the "10000-hour rule."
If you spend enough time doing something, you end up being good at it.


... and I'd like to add:
Thanks, Malcolm! I totally enjoyed your new book!

Jody Scott Olson

I'm being sort of smart-assy but not entirely...maybe American school children subscribe to a BlINK-type approach to mathematics. Maybe they understood within a split second that at their current skill level that they would be unable arrive upon the correct answer regardless of time spent.

I would be hard pressed to believe that any student who had an inside chance of correctly answering the math problem, would have quit that easily. I would anticipate however that the students who did quit quickly knew within a "blink" that additional time would not be enough to solve the problem ...without additional instruction.

Honestly, I think there's a tipping point...the students had and inside chance to answer correctly and the students who had no chance. Maybe Asian students spent longer because their skill level was superior and they had an inside chance of discovering the answer.

I think there are 2 subsets, those who might find the answer and those who lack the skill altogether.

If you place Korean writing in front of me, no amount of time will be of assistance to me because I don't know how to read Korean characters. So, the student who quit quickly...were essentially sitting in front of Korean...the ones who spent longer...already knew a few Korean characters.

Ian McKelvey

The test is called TIMSS not TIMS: Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study.

L Goetz

p 71 of Outliers talks about high-IQ verbal analogies, author comments he has no idea of how to complete analogy, teeth is to hen as nest is to..
look it up in wiki http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Teeth_is_to_hen_as_nest_is_to,

answer is mare,
no such thing as hen's teeth or a mare's nest, both phrases are colloqialisms for something nonexistent.


Singapore teaches math in a very specific way, a different way than done in the U.S. Some newspapers in 2008 did stories on a school in California that started using the Singapore math and the improvements that are being seen at that school. Teaching in a different way (and always looking for a better way) could be a big reason why Singapore and other Asian countries score better than the U.S.. Here is the L.A. Times link (google Singapore math for more information) http://articles.latimes.com/2008/mar/09/local/me-math9

Herbert Pitman

What is the pattern in hard Raven test question?

Hans-Rudolf Schmid

Either your hotel rooms are too large or your rice paddies too small.

In Outliers, p. 232 you write: "A mu, which roughly corresponds to the size of a typical rice paddy, is one-fifteenth of a hectare. That's about as big as a hotel room."

May it be that you got it wrong by a factor of ten?


The US should look very carefully at its math curriculum and compare what and how american kids are taught math as compared not only to the Asian kids, but also with West European countries and, even more so, East European countries. I am the mother of a daughter who grew in Romania for 6 years, then moved to Austria where she immediately became a straight A student, for then to move to CA where she was winning spelling bees in 2 months and tutoring classmates in math. Moved to CT where she was immediately placed in the advanced math program, in which she learned virtually nothing. So with mom's home schooling, she had top CMT scores. We are now in Germany, where she scores straight A's in math and others. Throughout these years, I have supplemented her want to learn more about math with my school years math knowledge, because where I grew, in Romania, yeah, the communist years, knowing math, languages, history, geography, physics and chemistry was a cultural must, for me and most of my pears. It is up to the parents to keep up the flame, although it makes it so much harder when the school system cuts corners. I admire the great job that the American schools that I know do in teaching logic and reasoning, but just that will never be enough.


I'm not an educator but lived in Hong Kong from 1988-1991 and traveled through various cities in China. I found the observations about Delta Pearl River very interesting but struggle on how that would extend to some of the larger cities such as Shanghai where workers at that time were paid to stay home. Workers were rotated due to power grid shifts to various parts of the city. I wonder if the same conclusions can be drawn.

Really enjoyed the book btw.

Curt Tweedle

As to the Asian/Math issue, I wonder if it has to do with their language.

I am not sure if this applies to the other Asian languages, but when I was learning Japanese, I was struck by something very interesting. When the get to numbers larger than ten, the names for the numbers take on mathematical principles.

For example. eleven is literally said as ten-one, twelve is ten-two and so on. Twenty is two-ten and twenty-one is two-ten-one and this applies for all their numbers.

Just be learning counting numbers, they are learning addition and grouping (which is how you learn multiplication). So, when they finally start learning basic mathematics, they are already that far ahead and that advantage continues throughout.

Whereas in English, we learn words like twelve and fifteen that imply nothing of mathematical principles. So counting and math become separate skills whereas in Japanese they are much more related.

Gail Stackman

Regarding "Tipping Point" - I believe the extreme drop in murders and crime in the 90's has been attributed to the Supreme Court passage of Roe vs Wade (1973.) The advantage given to the population of the poor being able to have a legal abortion instead of giving birth to an unwanted child or bringing up a neglected or abused child has been proven to be a major factor in the drop in the crime rate in the 90's. Please check this out as "Tipping Point" did not take this into consideration. I believe this to be a major factor.

Douglas Macer

Re: Distribution of birth dates among Canadian junior ice hockey players.

Dear Malcolm,

In the recent 2009 IIHF World Junior Championship, the ice hockey equivalent of US College Football's BCS, Team Canada won its fifth consecutive gold medal. Among the 24 players on the Team Canada roster, 10 were born in Jan-Mar, 6 in Apr-Jun, 4 in Jul-Sep and 4 in Oct-Dec. The disproportionate number of players with birth dates in the first calendar quarter is similar the front-end loading of birth dates you observed among the 2007 Memorial Cup tournament finalists in Chapter 1 of "Outliers." Interestingly, NHL rosters do not appear to be front-loaded, perhaps due to the influx of European-born players.

Douglas Macer
(a fellow, Canadian ex-pat)


What, no new post in a month? I guess Malcolm is on vacation or book tour?

George Starcher

I would be interesting in hearing Malcom's take on the recent Flight 1549 one day. Talk about a perfect example of it all going right and a person with all the right opportunities in the correct place and time.


Dear Mr. Gladwell,

Thank you for sharing your brilliant if well nurtured, fortunate and privileged intellect with the world, again. More than the veracity of your research theories and their proof, in Outliers, you offer the opportunity for the reader to go on an exploration with you examining connections not previously considered. Your curiosity helps each of us to expand, step back and widen the lens we use to understand ourselves within our world. Our interest in the success of Bill Gates et. al belies a thinly veiled quest in measuring our own personal access to it.

Several years ago as a master's student in social work at the University of Texas, I was required to take Cultural Diversity to matriculate. I, being the arrogant world traveler that I was, thought I could easily pass out of this course having had much exposure to people from different countries, cultures, races, and religions. Much to my surprise and wonder, I actually had a great deal to learn.

My gifted professor helped each student to write our own personal history to bring acute awareness to our own skin color, perceived beauty, heritage, ancestors experiences, acquired skills, family values, beliefs, political clime, upbringing, privilege, support systems, relationship to mass culture, indoctrinated discrimination, access to wealth, and moral obligations.

That exercise, like your book, helped me to better understand myself in context and with growing compassion better understand, accept, tolerate and value others. The example from your mother's book seemed to be fulfillment of the course goal. By sharing your personal history from different vantage points you have courageously modeled how to own a complex understanding of self, despite a lack of acknowledgement of your own outlier successfulness, and make it easier for others to follow. Outliers could serve as the text for Cultural Diversity and should be mandatory for all college freshmen. Perhaps this was not the intent of your book but a gratifying by-product.

Rebekah Gainsley

P.S. A visit to Book People in Austin would be much appreciated by slobbering fans here and thanks for multiple mentions of the University of Michigan (my alma mater) adding to its allure as an institution of enlightenment, solid research and the production of successful people.
P.P.S. Have you read Fox Butterfield's "All God's Children: The Bosket Family and the American Tradition of Violence (Vintage) as it is further evidence of the culture of honor and how it was passed to African Americans in the southeast?


Re: pg 84, your reference to affirmative action at University of Michigan. I'm assuming that someone else has already pointed this out to you, but in case they haven't...U Michigan no longer has a policy of affirmative action because it was overturned by the voters in the fall 2006 election. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/09/us/politics/09michigan.html

Surprisingly, a year after Prop 2 went into effect, the number of black law students in the entering fall class is roughly the same. Go figure.

All best,

Jan Jewell

I was invited to hear you speak in Seattle earlier this month and was introduced to you, your book, and your ideas for the first time that evening. I have just finished reading ‘Outliers’ and found it fascinating. Thank you for having the curiosity and vision to research and write about this subject. Rest assured, as soon as I find a bookstore, I’ll be reading ‘The Tipping Point’ and ‘Blink’ as well.

The subject of the 10,000 hour rule and the metamorphosis of the computer industry were most interesting. Relating them to my own life and that of my husband’s gave me a much better understanding of why we have been so fortunate ourselves.

My husband and I founded an internet marketing company in 1992 when few knew what the internet was. This was before the term ‘e-commerce’ was coined. We were lucky that our company was well received and successful enough for us to retire by our mid 40’s. Not only had we each been raised in upper middle class neighborhoods with excellent opportunities for education, we independently spent at least 10 years building our own entrepreneurial skills prior to founding our company together. After reading your book, I believe we were fortunate to be in the right place at the right time, and oddly enough we were born in 1957 and 1958.

Thank you again for being so insightful, your book is very thought provoking.

Karen Spindel

The preponderance of successful men featured in Outliers reaffirms my belief that gender, with all of its cultural and societal implications and biases, is, unfortunately, probably the most significant predictor of success; more important than birth month, birth year, ethnicity, economic status or any of the other characteristics of success or failure examined by the author. In fact, I am very interested to learn whether the family trees on page 153 and 154 include female offspring or only the males.

Jeff Tan

I'm 100% Singaporean and had 2 kids in the Singapore education system. I relocated to Shanghai 2 years ago and my kids study in an international school now. So I do have a rather intimate knowledge of the Singapore education system. I can't speak for the other Asian countries but in Singapore, the government introduced higher level math many years ago and kept adjusting the standards upwards over the years. So it's completely possible that Singaporeans are not genetically-enhanced math whizz kids, but rather, a product of a gradual and incremental increase in standards. Singapore wasn't blessed with a history of math prodigies since we became an independent nation in 1965, but after years of studying math at a higher level, it appears that Singapore kids are born with a calculator in their heads!

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  • 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.

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    Tipping Point

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