HOW DO Chinese tots outperform their American counterparts? Psychologist David C Geary of the University of Missouri at Columbia, USA, who has studied the performance of Chinese and American schoolchildren, found the Chinese kids got three times as many items right in a test and they could hold more digits in short-term memory (Science, Vol 262, No 5134).
The researcher suggests the Chinese children do better because their words for numbers -- for example, yi for one -- take slightly less time to say. That enables Chinese pupils to hold more numbers in their heads, making it possible for them to abandon the slower tactic of finger-counting at an earlier age.
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