Monday, November 23, 2009

Parents Seminars

In the last three weeks, I have conducted three seminars for parents. In Singapore, Singapore Teachers' Union conducted a seminar on the model method. In Manila, Vavier School and Ateneo de Manila University Grade School had seminars for their parents. In Jakarta, Bina Bangsa School also did the same thing.

The event at Xavier School Manila is reported at

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Conference on Singapore Math Strategies

The first conference held in Las Vegas attracted 800+ participants. Other than the keynote lectures, I conducted several sessions during the conference. The titles of the sessions are given below together with the approximate number of participants:

A-2: How Can I Help My Students See It? Developing Visualization (180 pax)
B-2: Questioning Questions: Techniques for Improving Attitudes (200 pax)
B-9: Strategies for Teaching Challenging Word Problems (170 pax)
C-2: Mental Math Mastery (with Char Forsten) (280 pax)
C-11: Piece of Cake: Teaching Fractions (240 pax with many gatecrashers!)
D-3: Developing Thinking Skills & Habits of Mind (130 pax)
D-9: Lesson Study & Singapore Math (100 pax)
E-1: Creative Thinking for Students Who Struggle (170 pax)
F-19: Open Forum: Q&A With Dr Yeap Ban Har (50 pax)
G-1: Activity-Based Lessons (140 pax)

A-2 was taught using exampless from Grades 7-12 for the National Conference on Differentiated Instruction (19-22 July 2009). D-9 was also repeated during this conference. A new session The 5 Math Competencies was developed for the DI conference. Each session has about 150 pax.

The next National Conference on Singapore Math will be held in July 2010 in Las Vegas.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Education in the US

Education Secretary Arne Duncan
"Last week I went to Berkeley County, West Virginia, to begin an open, honest conversation about education reform. I wanted to hear ideas about how we can accomplish President Obama's goal of providing every child in America a complete and competitive education, from cradle through career. As we prepare for the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, I want to hear from classroom teachers and other educators, parents and students, business people and citizens. What's working, and what's not? What do we need to do that we're not doing, and what do we need to stop doing - or do differently?

In the coming weeks, I will ask questions here. Topics will include raising standards, strengthening teacher quality, using data to improve learning, and turning around low-performing schools. I will be reading what you say. So will others here at the U.S. Department of Education.Today, I want to start with a simple set of questions:
Many states in America are independently considering adopting internationally-benchmarked, college and career-ready standards. Is raising standards a good idea? How should we go about it?
Let the conversation begin!"

Arne Duncan

Friday, May 8, 2009

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Some Quotes

Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.
Mark Twain

If you give me four hours to chop down a tree, I will spend threesharpening my axe.
Abraham Lincoln

Tests alone can't evaluate teachers.
Gerald Bracey, researcher/writer in education matters

Judging mathematics by its pragmatic value is like judging symphoniaby the weight of its score.
Alexander Bogomolny, creator of "Cut the Knot"

Correction does much, but encouragement does more.
Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Because we know America can't out compete the world tomorrow if ourchildren are being out educated today, we are making the largestinvestment in education in our nation's history.
Barack Obama

To succeed, you must first improve; to improve, you must firstpractice; to practice, you must first learn; to learn, you must first ail.
Wesley Woo

Fail again. Fail better.
Jonathan Lundell

Inspiration never arrived when you were searching for it.
Lisa Alther, American novelist

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Special Date

Today 3rd March 2009 is special ... 03.03.09. As many of us would have realized The product of 3 and 3 is 9. We say the square of 3 is 9 or the square root of 9 is 3. The last time we had this was 02.02.04, that was in 2004 and 01.01.01, that was in 2001. When is the next date when we have squares and square roots such as this?

Saturday, February 28, 2009


Have you been to There are plenty of resources for teachers (and parents) to select for thier children to use. I was told there are some new materials for those who have been using this website before.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

An Article in The Guardian 17 Jan 2009

"Perhaps the real key to Singapore's success, though, is the rare combination of traditional teaching and discipline, and a holistic, child-based approach."
I think this is an important observation from this article. It reminds us that the different approaches discussed by educators are not mutually exclusive. Yeap Ban Har
An outsider's perspective on education system in Singapore
Lessons from Singapore by Mike Baker (The Guardian)

How do you achieve a school system consistently in the top three in the world for maths and science, fourth for literacy, and described by experts as leading the world in teaching quality? Moreover, how do you manage to get 80% of pupils to pass five or more O-levels when they are taught in their second language in classes of 35? The answers are found in Singapore.

I have just accompanied winners of the Teaching Awards on a study visit to Singapore. It was organised by the charity CfBT Education Trust, which has sent British teachers to several countries to see what they can learn from other school systems.

So what did they expect to find? One assistant headteacher from the Midlands expected to see "a very traditional curriculum, rows of pupils, teacher in front, students there to learn". And indeed she did. But she also saw a whole lot more: traditional methods blended with more progressive thinking, and a focus on teaching the whole child, not just on exam results. It gave the British teachers plenty to ponder.

International comparisons are fraught with difficulties; it is easy to forget that what works in one country will not flourish in another. But Singapore has many similarities to the UK. The official language of school instruction is English, there is a national curriculum, and the national examinations are O- and A-levels, administered by Cambridge Assessment.

It was soon clear to the British teachers that there are similar challenges. Singapore is a multi-ethnic, multilingual society. Pupils are obsessed with mobile phones and computer games, and are, as one Singapore school principal put it, the "strawberry generation: easily bruised and damaged".

So why does it work? First, education is the government's top priority. That is not just rhetoric: a country with no natural resources (it even has to import water) knows it lives and dies by its collective brainpower. The ministry of education is very close to schools; as all teachers and principals are civil servants, they regularly rotate through postings to the ministry.

Teachers speak approvingly of the way the ministry supports initiatives with targeted funding. Or, as one former headteacher put it, the system runs on "top-down support for bottom-up initiatives".

For example, there is a drive to boost learning outside the classroom. The government provides funds for school visits, clubs and extra-curricular activities, enabling them to make such activities compulsory. Pupils are regularly graded on these activities, and the grades count towards entry to further education.

In another reform, the ministry announced recently that all primary schools would move to single-session teaching, with the juniors taught in the morning and the infants in the afternoon. This will bring smaller classes, better pupil-teacher ratios, and allow a programme of compulsory extra-curricular activities for the juniors in the afternoon.

Like England, Singapore is undergoing a big school building programme. But there is no disruption while the builders are in, as the whole school decamps to a vacant school nearby. The government maintains spare capacity for this very purpose.

In a reform called the Integrated Programme, schools with more able pupils are encouraged to bypass exams at 16, allowing greater curriculum flexibility right through to A-levels.

One visiting headteacher from Essex was struck by the real stretch offered to more able pupils, the "clear articulation of ideas between government and schools", and the way the whole system not only "talked the talk, but also walked the walk".

Perhaps the real key to Singapore's success, though, is the rare combination of traditional teaching and discipline, and a holistic, child-based approach. In the UK, we tend to see these as mutually exclusive opposites.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Missing Link

Try this task. You need to arrange four different Vietnamese dolls in a row. Find the number of different ways of doing this. Two ways are shown in the photos . . . Finding one arrangement is not problem solving. Finding a couple of ways is also not problem solving. What is problem solving? Finding all the possible ways, knowing that one has not found all the ways, or knowing that one has, is problem solving. Polya described problem solving as comprising four stages (1) understand (2) plan (3) do and (4) look back. Perhaps students who consistently not able to handle problem solving may have been doing only three of the four stages. Often, they have limited opportunities to do the look back phase. In other words, they have not been doing problem solving, in the true sense of the word, all this while. They have only been engaged in parts of the problem-solving process - that perhaps explain why they have not develop expertise in problm solving. One cannot be good at something unless one has gone through, and has practise, the entire thing.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Number Bonds & Model Method

If number bonds and model method are part of your conversation then this blog is for you. As parents in Singapore sent their kids back to schools last Friday, the perennial concerns of how to do better in mathematics and in school surface again. I have no doubts parents elsewhere have the same concerns.

Technology is pervasive and become increasinlgly so. In helping our children with mathematics, we should help them to develop their human qualities and sometimes with the use of technology. Use mathematics to help them develop the ability in abstract thinking, help them improve in their visualization ability, guide them to see patterns, spot trends and make generalization, encourage them to use words and other medium to describe their thoughts concisely and precisely with increasing clarity and sophistication. These are human qualities that we want our children to develop and mathematics is "an excellent vehicle" to help student develop and improve such intellectual competencies (Ministry of Education Singapore, 2006).

This first entry of the year aims to help us re-focus the business of helping our children with school mathematics in ways which are beneficial and enjoyable both for the children as well as for the adults helping them.