Ho Math Chess Research and Articles > Monther tongue language has great impact on math ability

math tutor, chess tutor
16 Jan 2008

I have been tutoring and teaching math for over 10 years and have observed two interesting phenomena:

My first observation

I noticed that some immigrant students who came to Canada when they were very young like grade 1 or 2 so they are very fluent in English when they are in teens now, but when comes to math basics computation such as addition, or subtractions or multiplication; all the sudden they will switch their English to use their original mother tongue language to do the basic computations.

I asked them why, they told me they could do it faster despite their mother tongue language is already very rusty and is not better than English, this really amazed me.

I feel the math computation ability the toddlers learned when they were very young seems to have the 'imprint' capability on one's computation ability.

Why and how we must be careful in choosing the first language when teaching our next generation math and how does this mother tongue language affect one's math ability?

Is it very wrong that the math teacher "forces" students not to use their mother tongue language to do their basic computation when it is "easier" for the immigrant students to do math?

My second observation

The second of my observation is I found out that some students hate drill to the point they will cry and got very stressful but some feel OK.

Even those students who feel fine to be drilled still like Ho Math and Chess worksheets better than the "pure" drill worksheets, why?

Why some students totally dislike to be drilled? This again, I feel, has something to do with one's brain and how we human's brain like to function, This is an interesting area needs to be explored further.

I am interesting in cooperating the above 2 subjects with some researchers to discover the new insights on how our brain functions.

Frank Ho

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