With the end of 2009 and the start of 2010, I am once again reminded how illogical and arbitrary English math is. Why do we say 2009 as two thousand nine but 2010 as twenty ten? I’m sure you’ve all hear the saying Asians are good at math. You want to know why? It’s because in Asia, math is logical and doesn’t have any stupid arbitrary rules.
Learning To Count – It’s Ten One, Not Eleven
The English method of counting is convoluted and the main reason why youths in Asia can count to 100 far sooner than youths in America. The normal rule for counting above ten is to say the tens first and then the ones. Like 21 is twenty one and 99 is ninety nine. However, this naming scheme doesn’t apply for 11 to 19 and as a result, students learning to count have to remember a different set of rules and different names for those numbers instead of logically putting ten and one together. In Asia, 11 is call ten one, 12 is ten two, 13 is ten three, etc.
Once an Asian student learns to count from one to ten in Chinese, he can say any number up to 99 without learning any new rules or names. While an American student has to remember that 20 is call twenty, an Asian student will call it two ten. While an American student has to remember that 60 is call sixty and 70 is call seventy but 50 is call fifty, an Asian student will simply say six ten, seven ten and five ten. There are no special names or change of rules for any numbers. All an Asian student has to know is one to ten and he can say any number from one to 99. Once he learn 100, he can say any number from 100 to 999.
Reading of a number in Chinese is done by saying how many tens, hundreds, thousands, etc. there are in the number. For example, 3,521 is call three thousand five hundred two ten one. It’s a lot simpler system and we all know the simpler you make something, the easier it is to learn. Sally can already count to 100 in Chinese but she hasn’t gone pass 20 in English.
It’s Year Two Zero One Zero
The simple system of naming numbers extends to naming dates. In most Asian countries, you simply say each number to state the date. 2009 is call two zero zero nine. 2010 is call two zero one zero. There’s none of this two thousand nine and twenty ten crap.
I’m sure there are other reasons besides simpler rules and easier naming schemes for numbers that allows Asians to excel at math. And of course for every stereotype, there will always be people who break it. I would be interested to know how other cultures handle their numbers and dates. Hopefully, it’s not as illogical and arbitrary as the English system.