By Nelly Min
Asians are known the world over as being “good at math.” This is a stereotype perpetuated by popular culture in the West. But is there some truth to it? Yes, as it turns out. I can say that in daily life, Chinese people do more math than their American counterparts. In fact, one can even say daily life in China is an ongoing math test. Right off the top of my head, I can think of three examples, starting with shopping in China’s capital.
When you walk into any department store in Beijing, chances are there is a sale going on. You will see signs with a single digit number and the Chinese character zhe prominently displayed next to products that are on sale. Experienced shoppers can jump to the conclusion that 7 zhe must mean 70% discount. Alas, the Chinese system encourages shoppers to go one extra step in calculating their discount: i.e., 7 zhe means you pay 70 percent, resulting in a 30 percent discount. Some adults in the West couldn’t do this simple math in their heads. Because, why would you need to? We left all that behind in elementary school.