My daughter goes to Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, and she is now taking a semester in Singapore.

She just took her mid-term exam for one of her engineering courses. The mid-term was five questions. Each questions was pretty complex, and, in one of the questions, she misread that something took place once a day instead of once per month. Except for this error, she did every step of the problem correctly, but her answer was 30 times too high.

The professor announced he gives partial credit for wrong answers. But, she got zero credit. When she asked why, she was told, the answer was 10,000. If you got the answer you got 20 points. If you got within 10% of the answer, you got 18 points. If you got within 20% of the answer, you got 16 points, etc.

To me, this highlights a huge difference in teaching emphasis between the two cultures. In the US, we are more interested in process: does the student understand the process to tackle the problem.

In Singapore, the professor was more interested in results, how close did the student get to the right answer.

If you really think about it, if you were building a bridge, which would be more important: the correct understanding of the procedures, but a calculation which was 30 times too high, or an answer which was calculated incorrectly, but within 10% of the correct result?

It's an interesting and different way of thought.