Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Less than three...

This is a simple mathematical statement: less than three, represented by <3. When I asked my pupils to name some numbers less than 3, most of them replied '2' and '1'. However, there are no fixed number of numbers that are less than 3!

2.9876543 is less than 3.
0.123456789 is also less than 3.

To my girls, however, it means 'love'. How so? <3 is the heart-shape Y lying on its side! Can you see that?

I'm still reeling from the grief that came with my beloved dad's homegoing on 25 September. The burial took place at CCK Christian lawn on 27 September. But when I think of his love for us his children, I'm thankful for who he is. Also, I'm eternally gratefully to God for saving him. Even though he won't be able to see me when I graduate in 3.5years' time, I'll continue to put in my best efforts in all I do.

So now, it's back to work - if I want to meet the expectations of my tutors and the course, and graduate! Carpe diem!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Hardest Mathematical Question...

I have been asking several questions of late. Many of them have no answers, and I do not intend to get on top of them till I get to the bottom of them! Besides, I don't have the luxury of time to do so! There are so many urgent things I need to settle - and soon! This includes AKM101 group and individual work!

I remember reading the book 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time' by Mark Haddon. In this book, the protagonist Christpher Boone asks and solves many mathematical questions. One question that was asked, if I remember correctly, was the whereabouts of the worn-off rubber tyres of our cars! It struck me as an interesting question because so many cars travel on the roads every day, everywhere, and tyres do get worn off. Now, where did the minuscule rubber bits go to? In another book I'm reading currently, "A Wrinkle in Time", the author mentioned that there is a fifth dimension called the Tesseract, and that raised several questions in my mind too.

But the question I'm now most concerned with is this: How much tears does one have? Is it an endless, infinite supply? Has anyone ever bottled tears and measure its quantity and rate of flow?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

To be On Task at My Task

On Saturday 18 September, the 5 of us managed to get online on MSN and began a rather thrilling session of chatting with one another. At one juncture, it kind of degenerated to something akin to a marketplace as all of us seemed to be talking at the same time, and no one appeared to be 'listening' (read: reading)! I found it amusing as it reminded me of a typical classroom situation! We teachers can shout ourselves hoarse as our pupils are engaged in their own conversations.

After the initial hitches and glitches, we settled in comfortably in one another's virtual company. However, albeit reluctantly, I had some pressing matters to see to and took my leave of MSN early.

My contribution to the group synergy has to do with TSLN, I&E and NE.

After some reading and researching, these are some of the things I've learnt:

1. Towards THINKING SCHOOLS: The concept of THINKING SCHOOLS is central to this vision. Schools must develop future generations of thinking and committed citizens, capable of making good decisions to keep Singapore vibrant and successful in future.

2. Towards a LEARNING NATION: We will make Singapore a LEARNING NATION, that goes beyond schools and educational institutions.

3. People - teachers and pupils - with a strong spirit of I&E possess a mindset and outlook of creativity, initiative and self-reliance. They possess the following core attributes:
• Intellectual curiosity (eg. to question assumptions, explore and experiment) and ability to see things in new ways (eg. to recognise patterns and make connections)
• Passion, strength of character, persistence, resilience and ruggedness
• Courage to live with ambiguity (eg. to seek alternative pathways) and to take calculated risks
• Sense of teamwork and ‘giving back’ to the community
4. NE - I am still contemplating on whether this is much more than a mere infusion of NE values with Math concepts (eg. measuring the length and breadth of a standard Singapore flag and finding its area, and talking about patroticism towards our nation).

Friday, September 17, 2010

Finding My Way Around...

After getting hopelessly and helplessly lost for a good 20 minutes, I finally found the 'elusive' McDonald's @ NTU, the haunt where my team mates and I were to meet for our first formal discussion of the work we were to do. Informally, we threw in our ideas about the key initiatives. Seeing how time flew by all too quickly, we decided to use MSN as a means for communication and discussion. The date for this: 18 September, Saturday, 10.30am!

For the first face-to-face meeting of erstwhile 'strangers' (except for Nurul and Jing Bo who are colleagues), I think we did pretty well!

What I'm most unclear about is pbworks. I guess I will be less hazy once I begin to explore the website thoroughly and systematically!

Some of the things I have learnt on 16 September (which happened to be the birthday of MM Lee) ~

1. Cooperative Learning -
Its benefits:
·         increase student retention
·         develop students' social skills
·         promote student self-esteem
·         promote student learning and academic achievement
·         enhance student satisfaction with their learning experience
·         help students develop skills in oral communication

I intend to make more creative and extensive use of Cooperative Learning Strategies in my classroom teaching. I think Think-Pair-Share works best for me!

2. Mathematics Initiatives -
·         some are short-fused
·         some enjoy longevity
·         some bring about notable changes
·         some are the results of another/others
·         some have influences in non-mathematical domains
·         some affect us such that our education landscape is no longer the same

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Little Chat Goes a Long Way...

I believe it's beneficial to speak with Mrs G-F, the Math HOD in my school, about the Math initiatives that have been put in place in our education system. Being approachable, friendly and having no airs but a wealth of experience, expertise and knowledge, Mrs G-F immediately invited me to her workstation when I waylaid and asked her if I could ask a few professional questions.

I told her I needed some info about the initiative that were implemented from 1997 to present. The year 1997 struck an immediate chord with her - TSLN! I knew I have found the right person! We chatted for about 20 minutes. After a most interesting and informative tête-à-tête and leaving the HOD Room, I quickly jotted down the things she had mentioned (before my oft-appalling memory fails me)...

Some of the things that I have learnt from Mrs G-F:

1. Although there was a content reduction in Math, it isn't significant enough. In one sense, it's simply how the teaching and learning of Math is. There is a 'ladder' of learning - many concepts are built upon what is taught earlier.

I experience this struggle almost on a daily basis: I want to teach well and I want my pupils to learn well. I want my pupils to love learning and love learning Math. However, in spite of the reduced syllabus, I still have a hard time teaching and exploring in the best possible way every single topic, especially when the exams loom near. 'Covering syllabus' - something I dislike doing - seems a norm.

There is a topic which can be done away with, in the opinion of Mrs G-F, with no real loss. Despite several appeals by teachers to get it removed, it remains. Guess which topic that is?

Speed! Zoom...!

2. There was a moving of topics to different levels. This is significant since it signals some changes in the thinking and mindset of the good people who are in charge of planning the Math curriculum.

3. Long time ago, the abacus was used in the learning of Math. This tool always brings to my mind the 'ancient' grocery shopkeeper who totalled up the prices of goods with it with ease.

4. Recently, the calculator was introduced in the learning of Math. This will enable more challenging questions to be tested as pupils are no longer hampered by the calculation parts when solving these problems.

Looking at it positively, I guess this is the right way to move ahead! It's the knowing how to solve a problem that is of a weightier matter!

At the end of our little chit-chat, Mrs G-F asked if I wanted to teach more Math next year!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

My First Taste of AKM101

AKM101 (Sep10) : Current Initiatives in the Primary Mathematics Curriculum

Some of the things I learnt and re-learnt on 7 September 2010:

1. It is possible to make a square using 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 7 pieces of the tangram. I found an interesting link here:

2. The scaffold we provide for our pupils, as implied by its name and by its nature, is to be removed eventually. I believe we all want our pupils to be independent learners.

3. The Mathematics Framework in Singapore is largely influenced by two documents (1980s) ~
[a] An Agenda for Action (NCTM, USA)
[b] Cockcroft Report: Mathewmatics Counts (UK)

These 2 important documents shifted the paradigm of Math teaching to problem-solving. Reading these documents reinforces the principle that our education is undergirded by our internal needs and external trends.

4. The PERI Report cited 5 examples of Pedagogies that apply across subjects ~ Learning by: [a] Inquiry [b] Interacting [c] Doing [d] In and Out of the Real World [e] Reflecting.

I spent some time browsing through the report and appreciated its relevance in our ever-changing world as well as its greater emphasis on non-academic programmes within the curriculum using the Programme for Active Learning. PAL aims to develop character and useful life-skills, something my school is actively engaging in so as to engage our pupils better!

The PERI report can be read from here:

5. TSLN & TLLM - Teaching Schools, Learning Nation & Teach Less, Learn More. Behind these acronyms lie a whole host of things for me to learn, explore and discover in this journey and adventure, and be a teacher with good practices!