Why is this?
Many authors have written about the social and societal differences between China and the West. While parental and societal expectations may well have some impact I am convinced the best insights lie in detailed analysis of the way in which mathematics itself is taught.
As far as I am aware there is only one substantial contemporary comparative study of the teaching of mathematics in China and a western culture (the US) and that is the work done by LiPing Ma (as written up in her book:
Knowing and Teaching Mathematics: Teachers' Understanding of Fundamental Mathematics in China and the United States.
(please - if others know of more relevant studies do post me to them in comments to this blog).
Her book details her study, which showed the wide ranging, secure and versatile strategies Chinese teachers had for handling arithmetic strategies in contrast to the brittle and limited mathematical strategies US teachers had at their disposal.
What struck me was that I and my students discovered and developed arithmetic techniques similar to those found in China when I taught using particular strategies which I developed as a teacher.
So, as soon as I get the time, I'll try to write up the strategies I used with my students. It was all very simple really and other teachers could easily experiment with the same techniques. I hope it will lead to some interesting discussion.
How do the Chinese do it? Links to my other blogs in this series.
4. Part 4
5. Part 5
6. Part 6