Math is hard!


Emily Yoffe, who makes a living out of charmingly embarrassing herself on Slate, has a new quest -- to learn to add 2 and 2. Apparently when she starting writing this article (in which she takes a crazy-intense Japanese math course) she was at a first-grade level.

These results forced me to consider that the real reason for my abysmal math skills might be that I was profoundly stupid. Yet even the stupid are supposed to be helped by the Kumon method. Founded 50 years ago by Toru Kumon, a Japanese math teacher, Kumon is not one-on-one tutoring, but a highly regimented system in which students progress by moving incrementally through increasingly advanced drills. I was intrigued by trying mathematics Japanese-style. I found encouraging a recent article in the Wall Street Journal that pointed out that while more men score very high on math in the United States, in Japan the sexes do equally well. Then there was the Brookings Institution study of international math achievement, which found that the U.S. ethic of trying to make math relevant, as opposed to the Japanese ethic of just getting math right, meant the Japanese swamped us in world rankings. ... I accept that this unshakable attachment to drills and repetition may be why the Japanese are better at math than Americans. But it may also be why the Japanese invented ritual seppuku.

Kumon also apparently has a reading program. Anyone know if there's a literacy gender gap in Japanese students?