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Mathline

Mark Lu: Chinese Medicines, Herbal Medicines and Math

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Mark Lu My name is Mark Lu and I am an Asian American businessman. I live and work in New York City, very close to Chinatown. You will find a "Chinatown" in most major cities in the United States. The interesting thing is, in a country like the United States, you can live, work, and interact with others, as if you never left the homeland. At the same time, your family members can live life the same way as the average American, and do so from the same household.

My store sells traditional Chinese medicines, and herbal medicines. We use a computer network to track all of our inventory and sales. We use mathematics all day long in order to make our business run. In the morning, we figure out what inventory we need to buy. Since much of our products come from Southeast Asia, primarily China, I have to find the current exchange rates and calculate the cost of purchasing various products. When I get the stock, I have to calculate the selling price, and the percentage of profit I can make.

I sometimes make an "herbal mix" for soups and medicines. I need to figure out how much of the mix I can make, the amount of each ingredient to use, and how much to charge for each bag of "mix". The math skills I needed for this task are measurement and algebra. The computers tally all the sales I made during the day, computing the total sales. To calculate the profit, I still need to add the totals and subtract my costs and overhead. For adding, subtracting and multiplying, I use the abacus, which for basic functions is much faster than an electronic calculator. With an abacus, you do the problem in your head, using the beads as a guide and reminder. Long complicated problems flow and solutions appear in your head without stopping to reenter numbers, or even hit a plus, minus, multiply or divide button. The number is in your head, and you don't need to look at a screen. Yes, math definitely makes the business world go round.