Math-English is better than Math-Vietnamese?

30 September, 2021

This is one of many common misconceptionsin learning Math. Let’s have a closer look at this topic with MA. Tran Quoc Dan, Member of Board Management, in charge of the Olympia High School expertise and Math subject.

- Learning Math in English is better than in Vietnamesethis is a common misconception. In early phase of learning, mother tongue is a more effective language to absorb information. In particular, Vietnamese and Asian languages in general have a more logical and memorable numerical structure than English (“muoi mot” is more memorable than “eleven”, “mot phan muoi” is easier to understand than “one tenth”.) Studies show that Asian children can count until 100 before going to the first grade while British or American ones can only count until 20. This also explains why Asian children perform better in math in early phase than European or American ones. The benefit of learning Math in English is to get access to English learning materials and international learning, which cannot be comprehended by Vietnamese.

- Math-English curriculum is more interesting than Math-Vietnamese:: Math, similar to other science subjects, has a consistent knowledge framework all around the world. Math in primary and middle schools share a lot of similarities among countries. It is undoubted that the presentation and illustration in Math-English textbooks are more visually attractive, which can stimulate students’ ability to absorb. However, it is more importantly driven by high-caliber teachers who have strong command of English. If teachers do not understand the writers’ implication or not know how to communicate, these textbooks cannot be effectively used.

- Students learning Math-English must write and present their answers in EnglishLearning a subject in bilingual languages is similar to learning a foreign language. Students need time to hone and practice until they become proficient. Initially, they get the information, learn the vocabulary, then they make sentences, learn to read and fathom based on the context. In the next phase, students learn how to speak and write some simple structures. Their language proficiency may take several years to reach the level that enables them to read, comprehend, and write Math answers in English.

What is the benefit of Math-English?
The rapid socio-economic development makes English an essential competence that students in Vietnam must acquire. On top of a good command of speaking, listening, reading, writing in English, they must develop their Academic English competency to adopt into learning and studies. This is also the goal of Olympia as most of our learner outcomes are the entrance to international schools in Vietnam and the world.



To meet such goal, besides a standardized English curriculum from primary to high school with expected outcome of IELTS 6.5, we also integrate English into Math and Science.

In many countries, bilingual learning is considered effective in learning a foreign language. The integration of a foreign language into existing subjects increases the exposure to that language and boost up the interest of students as they have chance to practice in different backgrounds. On the other hand, the integration may put the subject outcome in an inferior position. Furthermore, it might pose a challenge to the class duration as total school time has a certain limit.



How is Math-English adopted at Olympia?
After many years persisting with Content and Language Integrated approach, we have developed a suitable Math curriculum which integrates Math Vietnam and Math International to meet the target of strong Math competency under both Vietnam’s framework and the US’ Common Core standards. The curriculum has been built based on the following principles:

  • Ensure the consistency in adopting one curriculum for two languages with appropriate time allocation depending on students’ foreign language abilities;
  • Expected outcome is strong Math-English skills and Math academic competency in both languages;
  • Teachers have bilingual command in teaching Math and can teach Math in either languages to ensure children can use English in every lesson




In primary school, Math-Vietnamese learning is easier than Math-English as students have limited lexical range. Vietnamese language helps them learn and absorb Math knowledge better. After they are competent in one Math topic or skill, they will adopt English to learn some Math terms and practice doing Math in English so that they can listen, read, and write some short answers in English. Time allocation shall be 80/20 for Vietnamese and English. In the first grade, students have four Math-Vietnamese and one Math-English block every week. Since the second grade, more time will be allocated for English exposure, particularly reading and writing.

In middle school, students have acquired better language abilities as they have reached Flyer standards under the European framework. Math-English time slot increases by 40%. Students have three Math-Vietnamese and two Math-English blocks every week. Not only time, learning materials are also enriched. Math-English exercises contain practical math problems that require reading, analysis and modelling. These exercises help beef up their language skills as they have to analyze the context and strengthen their modelling capacity.

In high school,Olympian students have accomplished at least 147 points in PET. That is the foundation for a full access to Math-English learning materials. On top of Vietnam’s standard math curriculum, we offer PSAT and SAT courses to prepare for SAT exam in grade 10 or 11. This roadmap helps students get high scores in SAT Math by the end of grade 10 or throughout grade 11. Besides, they also have chance to approach the American Math-English learning materials such as Algebra 1 and Algebra 2.



Results show that Olympian students have better high school exam performance than the average in Hanoi. In 2019-2020, our average score in Math is 7.3/10. More than that, it is the strong competence of Olympian graduates that we focus on. The application Academic English into reading materials, listening to lectures, and discussing is vital to higher education. These achievements are accomplished by the consistent adoption of Math curriculum across all school levels, competency-based time allocation for English and Vietnamese, and selective and rich learning materials.

These are some personal insights into the development and adoption of bilingual Math model. I hope that they can provide parents with useful information to support their children in the academic journey.
MA. Tran Quoc Dan
Member of Board Management, in charge of the Olympia High School expertise and Head of High School Math subject

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