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Why it’s better to learn to count in Mandarin

November 25, 2019

一, 二, 三, 四,五,六。。。

From the BBC

By Anand Jagatia

22nd November 2019

Why you might be counting in the wrong language

Learning numbers in a European language has probably affected your early maths ability. It turns out there are better ways to count.

If I asked you to write down the number “ninety-two”, you wouldn’t have to think twice. By the time we’re adults, the connection between numerals and their names is almost automatic, so we barely give them a second thought. Which is why it might surprise you to hear that the English for 92 isn’t a great way to describe the number, and some languages are even worse.

Other languages do a much better job of describing digits. But it’s not just a matter of semantics – as early as 1798 scientists suggested that that the language we learn to count in could impact our numerical ability. In fact, one Western country actually overhauled its entire counting system within the last century, to make it easier to teach and do mathematics.

So what is the best way to count?

Nearly all cultures today use the same decimal, or base-10, number system, which arranges the digits 0-9 into units, tens and hundreds, and so on. The most logical counting systems use words that reflect the structure of this system and have regular, straightforward rules – but many languages use complicated and messy conventions instead.

For example, in French, 92 is quatre-vingt douze or “four twenties and twelve”. And in Danish, the word for 92 is to og halv fems, where halvfems, meaning 90,is an abbreviation of the Old Norse word halv fems inds tyve, or “four and a half times twenty”.

Please read more here.

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