By Associated Press
AsianWeek graphic by Jennie Sue.
A Northeastern University study suggests there may be a link between learning to write in Chinese and achieving higher scores on the SAT.
Íesearchers explain that learning to write in Chinese, with its numerous strokes and shapes, teaches a firm understanding of spatial relationships. That in turn enhances math skills, especially geometry.
«The imagery may help the brain process symbols and images, Chieh Li, an assistant psychology professor at Northeastern University and the lead author of the study, told The Boston Globe. The Chinese language is more pictoral, whereas English is more phonetic, she said.
ãYou need observation skills. You must have memory skills. And also, you need fine motor skills, added Joie Gao, a Newton North High School Chinese teacher who will instruct middle school students in the language this fall.
Li, a native of China, says she has long been fascinated by the apparent link between Chinese writing and high performance on ability tests.
Õhe surveyed about 150 Chinese American college students in the Boston area, two thirds of which did not know how to write in Chinese. All were born in the United States or spent most of their school years here.
he conducted a Chinese writing exercise and asked the students for SAT scores, some of which she matched against actual records to verify accuracy.
¤he results showed female students who could write in Chinese scored an average of 703 out of 800 on the SAT math test, while non-writers scored a 629 on average.
¤he difference was slighter on the English portion of the SAT. Chinese writers scored an average of 672, while non-Chinese writers posted an average score of 622.
Officials at the College Board say theyre intrigued, but point out there are other ways to teach spatial relationships.
¡hinese American students are also skeptical. They attribute their success on tests like the SAT to cultural values that stress good work habits and education.
Were in the Chinese culture, and thats whats pushing us to have strong scores, said Eva Tseng, 16, a senior at Newton. I dont think the Chinese language has anything to do with it.