Pisa results affirming for mathematics learning in the hong kong early childhood setting
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PISA results: affirming for mathematics learning in the Hong Kong early childhood setting?. Dr Wong Kwok Shing , Richard Dept. of Early Childhood Education, Hong Kong Institute of Education, Hong Kong-China. Aims of this presentation.

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PISA results: affirming for mathematics learning in the Hong Kong early childhood setting?

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PISA results: affirming formathematics learning in the Hong Kong early childhood setting?

Dr Wong Kwok Shing, Richard

Dept. of Early Childhood Education,

Hong Kong Institute of Education,

Hong Kong-China

Aims of this presentation

  • What do Hong Kong (HKG) early childhood practitionersteach and what types of activities do they employ in the classroom?

  • Do HKG teachers help young children build a solid foundation for future maths learning?


  • Past century: Asia has looked to the West

    (超英趕美, literally ‘surpass Britain, catch up with the US’)

  • The latest PISA results in Mathematics: the top three economies/ countries are all in Asia.

Data Interpretation

  • Looks reaffirming

  • But greater variation across students in the top-performing economies or countries

  • Equity issue:

    • A higher proportion of students scoring at level 5 or above in the top-performing economies/ countries

    • What does this imply?

Issues for exploration

  • Past studies:

    • Greater intellectual capacity ofAsian students?

    • Superior mathematics education in Asia? (see Leung, 2000)

    • More demanding parents in Asia (See Chen & Stevenson, 1995; Kwok & Lytton, 1996; Leung, 1999)

    • Learners hold high standards for themselves (See Chen & Stevenson, 1995; Kwok & Lytton, 1996)

  • What is left to be explored...???

What I want to investigate…

  • What applies to the primary school setting may not apply to the kindergarten setting

  • How do HKG preschool teachers help to lay a solid foundation for young children to learn mathematics?

    • What methods do they use in teaching maths?

    • Do they teach the skills that are critical for children’s future mathsabilities?

    • What is the content covered at different age levels?

    • How much do they believe in nurture in contributing to a child’s mathsability?

92 Participants

* Years of teaching experience: 4.41 years (SD = 4.6)

Tool: A self-developed questionnaire

  • Demographic information

  • 17 itemsfocusing on three types of activities: child-centered, teacher-centered, activities favoured by psychologists

  • 36 items: specific mathscontent

  • Other items: teachers’ motivation in learning maths, teachers’ beliefs, etc.


Drilling? ‘Traditional’ approach

Emphasis of teacher educators

Emphasis of dev. psychologists

Between-group differences

  • Factorial analysis of variance (p < .05)

  • No main effect for group except for group exploration

  • No main effect for age of the children except for homework, backward counting, statistics, patterns and missing number

  • No interaction between group and age of the children

MathsContent: Number (%)

Mathscontent: Sets (%)

Mathscontent: addition and subtraction (%)

Mathscontent: location, shape and others (%)

Other results

Note 1: No differences across groups (F-test, p < 0.05)

Note 2: Significant difference between the scores for nurture and nature (t-test, p < 0.01)


  • Relatively inexperienced teachers…

  • Not so motivated in learning maths themselves…

  • Not much time spentteaching maths… (18 minutes on average)

  • Certainly NOT experts

  • But believing in hard work!!

  • Bad news for teacher educators but good news for developmental psychologists!

  • PISA results: really affirming???

Further issue for exploration

  • What is the role of tutorial centres (colloquial term: 雞精班, literally ‘class serving chicken extract’)in Asia?

  • A case study: school versus tutorial centre

At School

What does the same child learn in the tutorial centre? Same concepts but in English!

  • Addend turn around: 5 + 6 = 11 and 6 + 5 = 11

  • Addition and subtraction: up to 24

  • 3 addends

  • Pattern: sequence, complete a pattern

  • Match patterns: visual skills

  • Right & left

  • Mental rotation

  • Combine figures

  • 3-D shape

Contribution of tutorial centres

  • Concepts that are learnt at school are re-introduced through a foreign language

  • A lot of practice: many practice items

  • Memorization (automacy): no need to compute the answers

  • Visual skill training

  • Logical reasoning

Hidden cost: pressure

  • The mother said, ‘If you’re a failure, better not live in Asia because you will be trampled on. The system here only helps the “winners”. If you have problems, study abroad or just go abroad-the system there is more protective and caring.’

Asian parents?


  • System is geared towards examination success but to the detriment of play

  • Do children have a happy childhood? Or is their childhood being cut short? (Further research)

  • My own experience…

Appendix A: What do scholars recommend?

  • Short-term predictors (beginning to the end of kindergarten): counting, quantity discrimination, and number naming (Jordan, 2010)

  • Long-term predictors (beginning of kindergarten to the end of grade three): foundational number sense supports computation and applied problem solving (Jordan et al., 2010)

Underlying Pathways (LeFevre et al.)

  • Quantitative pathway

  • Linguistic pathway

  • Spatial pathway

    => A learner excels in one area of mathematics but not in another area

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