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date: 11 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines the idea that spoken language of mathematics could be a potential factor in explaining variation in mathematics achievement between East Asian and US students. A particular focus was placed on the number naming systems of East Asian languages that are rooted in ancient Chinese. In these languages, the organization of number names follows the rules of the base-ten system. Studies that examined influences of number naming systems on children’s mathematical competence showed that young children speaking East Asian languages prefer to represent two-digit numbers as consisting of tens and ones. Although these results seem limited to specific mathematical competence, it is argued that strong foundations built around base-ten knowledge are likely to contribute to later mathematics performance. Some disadvantages of East Asian languages are also discussed.

Keywords: cross-cultural comparisons, East Asians, mathematics competence, mathematics achievement, number words, numerical cognition, numerical language

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