## Get the maths right

I need some help from anyone who knows statistics intimately to help me understand a problem. Something in the papers today just doesn't make sense. In fact, it stinks.I was reading the NST today when I came across the article about the problems of teaching of Maths and Science in English. There is also a PDF download of the entire study.

That article concludes that teaching Maths in English does not work because a study showed that students were having problems answering questions in English.

Problem is, I don't think the data presented in the article supports this conclusion.

(Unfortunately, the actual data in the newspaper and the one in the website differs. I don't know why that is, you just have to rely on what I present here.)

Nine sample questions were quoted in the article. They were presented to Year 5 students (about 11 years old). Two are of interest:

(From NST, 7 September 2008, page 6)

- Q1. Six pencils cost RM2.40. How much does a pencil cost?
- Malay: 39.6% (427 out of the 1077 Malay students answered correctly)
- Chinese and Indian: 54.7% (197 out of 360 students)
- Orang Asli (aboriginal peoples): 6.5% (7 out of 108 students)
- Total: 40.5% (633 of 1564 students)

- Q9. Farah menjual 8 kotak minuman dengan harga RM5.60. Berapakah harga satu kotak?
- Malay: 37.3% (402 correct)
- Chinese and Indian: 51.9% (187 correct)
- Orang Asli: 13.0% (14 students)
- Total: 38.7% (605 students)

How on Earth can anyone conclude that they have problems when learning in English?

(That aside, they also can't add. 1077+360+108 does not equal 1564 students. I'm sure it's a clerical error, or maybe there's one student who's Lain-Lain.)

More worrying:

- About a quarter of 11-year olds sampled could not calculate 6 x 7.
- Around 2 out of 5 couldn't solve 72 divide by 8.
- Nearly three quarters had problems solving 36.45 divided by 5.

Of course, it's all about the sample selection. And about the control. I don't know enough about these things, so that's why I'm asking for help.

I looked at the school sample in the study. They come from all over Peninsula Malaysia from cities as well as the rural areas. I don't know if the sample taken is 'fair', but it does look comprehensive.

The questions, on the other hand, I have problems with. I focused on the Maths because that's what I have a soft spot for.

- In the example printed in the papers, out of eight questions, four were in English, four were language-neutral and only one was in BM. Surely, you need an equal number of the three categories for it to be a fair comparison?
- In the example printed in the PDF download, the one question in BM was a problem that required two subtractions. The closest English equivalent problem was one that needed one addition, one subtraction, another addition and finally a division. Unsurprisingly, the easier question got more correct answers. The obvious thing to me is to have very similar questions in terms of difficulty, regardless of the language.

Naturally, I look forward to any comments you might have.

Labels: malaysia

Comments:

I don't wanna take sides, but I think the BM answers scored bit lower cos everything they were taught was in English. Or the stuudy should find out if the schools teach in both lingos simultaneously. You must know that even Anwar Ibrahim is against this policy as "contravenes Article 152 of the Fed Constitution; eroding the role of Bahasa as a national identity."

I don't really mind what language the subject is taught in, but the fact is that people are arguing about the language, when the basic skills are not even there.

These are basic multiplication and division skills that should be present, regardless of language used.

The arguments presented in the study obscure this fact. They are shining the torchlight at cracks in the wall after half the house has fallen in already.

These are basic multiplication and division skills that should be present, regardless of language used.

The arguments presented in the study obscure this fact. They are shining the torchlight at cracks in the wall after half the house has fallen in already.

whatever it is, any hope of successful implementation would take a few generations, several general elections; it'd take only ONE general election to take it down, provided democratic institutions are all in place. And the signs of resistance toward the policy are everywhere; be it tacit or obvious, logic or emotional. And these come from the people who participate in our democratic system. Are the Wonder Pets on TV9, Malaysians to begin with? :P

Yet I know there are also many out there who support the policy and their kids coped with it very well. So I suggest for schools whose students can cope with the policy, CARRY ON; for those who can't...let common sense prevail.

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Yet I know there are also many out there who support the policy and their kids coped with it very well. So I suggest for schools whose students can cope with the policy, CARRY ON; for those who can't...let common sense prevail.