Question: Should 4th Grade Math Be This Upsetting?

At the start of class Alice — pictured below — sat sobbing uncontrollably.

Tears streamed down her cheeks. She couldn’t catch her breath. Alice, a ten year-old fourth grader, was having a panic attack.



Because Alice’s Chinese math teacher berated her for poor test results. Maybe I’m missing something because I’m a foreigner, but math shouldn’t be this upsetting. A child’s well-being shouldn’t depend on the results of any single test, especially when the child is only in fourth grade.

But again, maybe I’m missing something. What do you think? Should 4th grade math be this upsetting?

About Michael Venske

Since 2012 Michael Venske has been teaching English in Zibo, Shandong, China. When not in the classroom he's busy writing his next solo performance endeavor chronicling (mis)adventures in The People’s Republic of China.
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  1. It’s upsetting for some, but not for all. All 4th grade math is not upsetting in all nations. I always thought math was way too easy in the past 10 years. —From a proud Chinese.

  2. You’re right, not all 4th grade math is upsetting in all nations. When I was in 4th grade in America — long before the No Child Left Behind education reform of 2002 — math wasn’t upsetting. Maybe it is now. I don’t know. What I do know is the math fourth graders in China are doing now is the same math I would’ve been doing when I was seventh or eighth grade.

    Every student and nation are different. While math may be easy for you, it’s a challenge for someone like me. Because no two students are ever a like. The job of teachers though is to learn where the student is at and help them make progress. Some teachers go about this in different ways. Personally, I prefer encouraging my students to try — even if they fail — then to help them understand any mistakes made to learn from them. Then try again, succeed, and enjoy that sense of accomplishment and pride in knowing they did something they couldn’t before. Allowing the student to rejoice in the fact that they actually learned something.

    It’s difficult to help a student learn when they’re afraid of the teacher. Shaming a student won’t help them. Students need love, support, and patience. When a student can trust you, you can help them.

    Thank you for the comment my proud Chinese friend! I’m thankful you weighed in! Thank you! Your voice is the one missing from this discussion.

What do you think?