China / Society

Students calculate usefulness of math in real life

By Sun Xiaochen (China Daily) Updated: 2014-05-20 08:30

Will the advanced mathematics taught in Chinese high schools help students work out real-life problems? Probably, but very little, according to Li Zhihan, a student at Guangdong Experimental High School.

Li was participating in the China-France Mathematics Exchange program on Monday with 24 other Chinese high school students who were full of emotion about the math education gap between China and France.

"The subjects that were tested in the event differed a lot from what we are familiar with in China. It's more about the practical use and assessment of logical thinking ability rather than how deeply you studied the science," Li said of the French-compiled test.

Due to the exam-oriented college admission system, math education in China has emphasized academic difficulty at the expense of practical approach and logic training.

Zhang Jinsong, an expert at the curriculum and teaching materials research institute of People's Education Press, said the current evaluating model is too simple to assess student's overall abilities.

"Students' complaints about math learning was mainly caused by pursuing high scores in the gaokao - national college entrance examination - by doing difficult tests and homework. It has buried the beauty of math," Zhang said.

While the Ministry of Education proposed a draft plan to exclude English from the gaokao starting in 2017, many claimed it was math that should be removed from the all-important exam, not English.

According to a recent survey on Sina Weibo, China's largest micro blog platform, about 70 percent of more than 130,000 respondents agreed on "excluding math from the gaokao", citing no use for math learning in secondary schools for future work.

Guo Qijun, president of Shenzhen Futian High School, urged the education authority to reduce the proportion of math in the gaokao, saying that it's unfair to require high scores for students planning to study arts and literature in college.

The Ministry of Education has denied any imminent radical changes to the status of math in the gaokao.

Some students defended the necessity of advanced math studies.

"Taking math tests is like doing brain workouts. They improve your mental toughness and focus even for jobs in other areas," said Zhou Jingcheng, a student from Tianyi High School in Jiangsu province, who also attended the exchange event on Monday.

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