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Midwest in the Far East - Math Ed 3

UWO Students at at Ningbo Elementary School


Ningbo is a port city located about 130 miles south of Shanghai that focuses mainly on fishing and importing/exporting. Having about 5 million residents, Ningbo is quickly morphing into a major Chinese city. Because it has deeper waters than Shanghai, Ningbo can handle the larger and heavier boats, thus becoming stiff competition with other importing/exporting cities like Shanghai. With a newly developed downtown district, several universities and a per capita three times larger than the average, Ningbo has become a place for wealthy Chinese to live. The city even has ties to Wisconsin. Ningbo and Milwaukee officials signed an agreement in 2006 to help promote business and cultural exchange between the two cities.

Class Begins

In Ningbo the UW Oshkosh students, who stayed at the international dormitory at Ningbo University, spent most of their time immersed in Chinese education. They learned about Chinese culture from Ningbo University professors, participated in math lectures with UW Oshkosh professors Eric Kuennen and John Beam, and took field trips to observe local schools.

The students first observed fourth and fifth-graders at the Ningbo Huizhen Academy, a private primary school. On the day of the visit, the study abroad group arrived to a sea of children doing their daily morning exercises in the school’s playground.

Ryan King plays Basketball
Jump shot: UW Oshkosh math education student Ryan King (l) plays
basketball elementary schoolchildren in Ningbo, China.

Before long, junior Ryan King jumped into the fray of activity. To the delight of the younger students, he joined a friendly game of pick-up basketball. Others jumped rope with the Chinese youngsters.

The Chinese students showed no fear of the Western visitors and were happy to show off their English language skills. They greeted the UW Oshkosh students with shouts of “What’s your name? Are you from America?”

After recess, the UW Oshkosh students sat in on a fifth-grade math class filled with 30 students wearing identical red track suits and matching red handkerchiefs tied around their necks. Despite their grade, the class was actually studying sixth-grade math.

During the class, the teacher asked the students to solve a variety of geometry problems, including finding the degrees of missing angles and the area of circles.

One at a time, students came to the front of the class to explain the specific way he or she solved the problem.

Jackie Hoffman and students in China
Making friends: UW Oshkosh math education student
Jackie Hoffman chats with the schoolchildren at Ningbo
Huizhen Academy, a private primary school.

The Oshkosh students and faculty marveled at what they observed.

“By coming up with their answers, it gives them ownership of math,” UWO math professor Kuennen said. “It gives them ownership of their knowledge.”

Junior Jackie Hoffman said she was amazed how enthusiastic the students were at discovering new ways to figure out their class assignments.

“The student comes up with one answer, the class comes up with other answers, and it teaches them not to limit their thinking,” she said. “It’s like opening some new doors.”






Mary Glaza

UWO Math Ed China Mary Glaza Ningbo Primary School

UW Oshkosh math education student Mary Glaza explains the differences
between the Chinese and American way of teaching after she observed
math classes at the Ningbo Huizhen Academy.

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