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Solve the Problem Or No Food for you!

April 5, 2012

When I was in high school, my math problem solving ability is almost flawless, or as close to flawless as a human being can be. There were hundreds of exams throughout those three years, working only for some points in three days (btw: the Chinese education system by then was to wipe out all history about how you did in those three years, except these three cold hard digits out of seven fifty from the university admission committee. The admission became super simple, “we want one hundred students, these hundred thousand applied, we would make a cut of the first hundred, produced a milestone, and announced it and sent congratulations to these people). My classmates seriously believed I was AI instead of flesh and bones, god that might be nicer when I knocked myself into the tree or something.

So what was the secret?

A lot of people: who will take the tests themselves, whose kids will take the tests, and who are teaching the people who will take the tests ask me.

Well, after I told them, none of them were interested to follow the my routes any more…although they were still interested in perfect score in math…

So here is the deal.

A bit of background: when I was about five or six or it might be even 3 or 2, my family was quite poor, so our house was about 300 square feet (30 square meter) at most. And a significant part of that was kitchen for some reason. My father was high school math teacher and decided that he should give me an early start for the competition of this entrance test, which was like an army of ten thousand people crossing the one-person-bridge. So he would hand me a piece of paper with twenty arithmetic problems on it, and gave me the following instructions: solve all of them and if you get them all right, we will eat dinner, or else you will get another piece of paper of twenty questions    and this process will repeat. And I would be in this huge kitchen with this problem set and food that i could smell but not eat.

Being a hungry little girl as I was, I quickly realized that doing them all right the first time was definitely going to lead me to the food faster than doing it twice….

So the secret is “Solve the problems or no food for you!”


Do not practice this on your child: I fear not many children were as obedient as me, and the results might still vary. (my cousin was much smarter, he just refused to do the problems and eventually he still got to eat, but that was six years later, so I did not get to learn that technique.)

  1. Hi,
    Not a fun way to learn maths at all, but I have to hand it to the cousin, that was still using the brain, just in a different way. 🙂

  2. Hi,
    Here is the strange thing about me:
    I did not feel it fun. But I began to enjoy beating my own record of how to solve it fast and super accurate to get food….

  3. I’ve heard about Chinese parenting and severe methods. It makes sense that you needed to achieve on a higher level in order to compete. Wonderfully told.

  4. Believe it or not, in the USA history is being revised all the time. We have generations of people who don’t know how this country was founded and what it is suppose to stand for. It is happening right now in our Supreme Court over the health care debate. America is slowly turning toward communism/socialism. Over half the US population thinks that the government should provide everything for them for free. People need to wake up before we become like Greece, France or England.

    You are in a unique position to instruct those sleeping Americans about the dangers of communism since you came here from such a place and can trell them first hand what it’s all about.

  5. Nominated you for an award…

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