Occasional reflections on Life, the World, and Mathematics


I’ll admit it. When I saw the Spiegel headline warning of an “alarming performance gap in maths and science between pupils in East and West”, I assumed this was just another one of those depressing reports on the economic failure of the poor Ossis. But no:

The East has the top pupils: Saxony and Thüringen lead in the national school comparison in maths and science. The losers are the city-states [Bremen, Hamburg, and Berlin] and North-Rhine Westfalia [the largest state, in the West]. Pupils there are as much as 2 years behind.

[Der Osten hat die Musterschüler: Sachsen und Thüringen führen beim bundesweiten Schulvergleich in Mathematik und Naturwissenschaften. Schlusslichter sind die Stadtstaaten und NRW. Dort liegen Schüler um bis zu zwei Jahre zurück.]

The five states comprising the former East Germany are the five leaders (out of 16) in biology, chemistry, and physics, and are among the top six on the mathematics test (with only Bavaria sneaking in to third place.

So, nearly 25 years after reunification, can it be that we’re seeing the continuing cultural effect of the positive Russian and East European influence on East German education, in particular their cultivation of and respect for mathematics?

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