Despite learning Chinese for many years, up until recently I have never given much thought for how to do maths in Chinese. It’s certainly something I was never taught in lessons or in the many textbooks I trawled through at school, but is nevertheless an interesting topic. I found a really handy online bilingual dictionary of mathematical terms, which can be accessed here. Although many of the terms discussed will be much more difficult than those I explain today, it’s still a useful resource to bookmark for future reference.
Much has been said in recent years about the way in which maths is taught in China. In fact, earlier this year a group of pupils in the UK who had been taught maths and science in the traditional Chinese way as an experiment outperformed their peers by an average of 10%. However, the students were forced to study through 12-hour days, taught by a teacher who stood at the front of the class at a whiteboard. I always preferred teachers who used alternative teaching styles during my time at school and I’m not sure I could have concentrated through those long days, but you can’t argue with the results!
No need for 12 hours of focus today though, I thought we would just start with the basics.
So, let’s start with some simple vocabulary:
1) 加 / jiā / add, as in 1 add 2 is 3
2) 减 / jiǎn / minus, as in 6 minus 2 equals 4
3) 等于 / děngyú / equals, as in 3 add 2 equals 5
4) 得 / dé / is, as in 1 add 2 is 3
5) 乘（以） / chéng (yǐ) / multiplied by, as in 6 multiplied by 2 equals 12
6) 除（以） / chú (yǐ) / divided by, as in 8 divided by 4 equals 2
Now for some examples using the vocabulary:
3) 8乘以3得24 (which can also be expressed as 8乘3得24)
4) 36除以4等于9 (which can also be expressed as 36除4等于9)
Why not check out this awesome video that demonstrates the method for Chinese Stick Multiplication:
Mind blown? The method certainly looks impressive, but in essence it simply ensures that the person performing it understands the base 10 system and the effect each digit has during multiplication – give it a go!
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