Students from Japan and South Korea gave their U.S. counterparts a sound thrashing on a recent international comparison of mathematics skills. But don’t expect them to boast about it.
A survey of students, included in the Program for International Student Assessment study released last month, reveals that 15-year-olds from the two Asian nations expressed little confidence in their math ability—and little enthusiasm for the subject overall—despite their strong performance. U.S. teenagers, who by contrast fared worse on PISA, felt relatively assured of their own ability, the survey indicates.
William H. Schmidt, a professor at Michigan State University’s college of education, said it was not surprising that those Asian teenagers harbor doubts about their math skills—and dread the subject at times. The American perception that mathematics somehow comes easily to Asian students is a myth, he said.
“It’s difficult, and they struggle with it,” said Mr. Schmidt, who has participated in a number of international education studies.
Coverage of cultural understanding and international issues in education is supported in part by the Atlantic Philanthropies.
A version of this article appeared in the January 19, 2005 edition of Education Week