Letters to the Editor

Math Matters

I recently read an article (Spring '01) that Virginia Stuart '75, '80G wrote about Yeping Li's research on mathematics education in the U.S. and abroad. I was wondering if you know how students are grouped for the instruction of mathematics in other countries (heterogeneous or homogeneous, or at which age does it change)? I am interested in Yeping Li's opinion on this.

Yeping Li replies:

Thank you, Tom, for your question. Although the grouping issue has been discussed for quite some time, there is not a good answer to it. In China, students are grouped heterogeneously, both in terms of their gender and mathematics learning. Certainly, some after-class activities are available, such as mathematics interest groups for advanced students and tutoring for students with low achievement. One thing that is very different from the U.S. is that all Chinese students are required to learn the same core mathematics content and achieve the basic requirements that are outlined in the national syllabus. The textbooks used also need the approval of the state authority.


After students get into high school, things can be a little different. College-bound students are likely grouped into two different classes in terms of their own choices. One is the group of students who will prepare to take the National University Entrance Examination (NUEE) with a focus on science and engineering. The other will take the NUEE with a focus on the social sciences and humanities. The mathematics tests for these two groups differ in terms of both content and requirements.

College-bound students will take the NUEE tests right after their graduation. Therefore, these two groups of students will need different mathematics training after they enroll in high school. Things may have changed and can vary from place to place in China, since this practice is not required.

Reading Faces

I am writing regarding the article in the Spring '02 issue about the Rev. Dr. Mary Westfall. In discussing Sept. 11 and the photo of the 19 terrorists she kept on her desk, she said: "I look at their faces partly to keep me aware of the ways in which brokenness manifests itself, and I look at their faces to be reminded of their humanity."

I take offense to that comment. I think that the average person when they looked at the pictures saw evil in the faces and did not interpret it as humanity. I also feel that all the families that lost loved ones in the World Trade Center would share the same outrage.

A Farmer's Legacy

I enjoyed Mylinda Woodward's article, "No Gift Outright," in the Spring '02 edition. It is important that students and staff members realize that the university was originally a land-grant college and was established as the New Hampshire College of Agriculture and the Mechanic Arts.

Originally, the college was in charge of preserving wooden farm equipment and the history of agriculture in our state. As space became a problem, the New Hampshire Farm Museum took over these responsibilities. You may go to the museum in Milton today and see examples of remarkable ingenuity in the creation of farm equipment from wood and demonstrations of the use of oxen and horsepower.

The new varieties of fruit and vegetables developed at UNH would have pleased Ben Thompson. It is worthwhile keeping his vision and interest in agricultural education alive. The university will have to do this.

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