Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Singapore Math 6: AAARGGGGHHHH!!!!!!

There's a hot quiz show in the US called "Are you smarter than a 5th grader?".

Well, in this version called "Are you smarter than a P4 student?", I fail miserably! Monica posted these two questions, from a Pri4 assessment book, and I tried for hours and still can't solve it. What's wrong with me???? It's like there's this mental block stopping me from seeing it; I bet you when I see the solution, I'm gonna whack my head and ask "why the heck couldn't I see that, it's so bloody simple" while mouthing all kinds of expletives directed at myself. ARRGGGGHHHHH!!!! STRESSSSSSS!!!! I tell you if I'm in Singapore's education system, I'd probably be mental by now. How do you guys do it? Errrr, maybe some of you guys are already mental, you just don't know it...hehehehehehe....

Oh Mon, in case you didn't see my comment, please don't provide the solution first. Pretend I'm just a kid and I don't know how to do it, how would you prod me in the right direction? How would your 3 tips for models apply in these questions?

1) Jack and Ali are given a certain number of maths problems to solve. If Jack solves 3 problems and Ali solves 1 problem every minute, Jack will have 12 problems unsolved when Ali has finished solving all his problems. If Jack solves 1 problem and Ali solves 2 problems every minute, Jack will have 42 problems unsolved when Ali has finished solving all his problems.
a) How many problems were given to Ali?
b) To finish solving the problems at the same time as Ali, how many problems must Jack solve every minute if Ali solves 4 problems every minute?

So Brian got back at 7am today, had a bath and wanted to use the computer to play his school's online math programme, First in Math. I said Hold on! Hold on!, do this first. So he did and got the answers. I don't understand the second part of the work though, how he got 16.

2)There are 500 male and 200 female employees in Company A. There are 400 male and 600 female employees in Company B. Some employees are transferred from Company A to Company B. After the transfer, the number of male employees is the same as the number of female employees in Company B and the number of male employees is twice the number of female employees in Company A. How many female employees were transferred from Company A to Company B?

Brian got this right but by guess-and-check!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Singapore Math 5

More questions from EPH P5 Challenging Math courtesy of Monica. Answer and working okay?

1) There were some red, blue and green jelly beans in a bag. The number of red jelly beans was 2 1/3 times the number of green jelly beans. The number of blue jelly beans was 0.5 times the total number of red and green jelly beans. When 200 jelly beans were added into the box, the number of green beans became 1.5 times the original number of green jelly beans, the number of red jelly beans was increased by 1/7 and the number of blue beans was increased by 50. Find the total number of jelly beans in the bag in the end.

2) 2/3 of the number of shells Sheba collected is equal to 3/8 of the number of shells Ann and Dick collected together. Ann collected 1/3 as many shells as Dick.
a) What percentage of the total shells did Ann collect?
b) Express the number of shells Dick collected as a percentage of the number of shells Sheba collected, correct to 2 decimal places.
c) If Dick collected 72 shells more than Sheba, how many shells did the 3 children collect in all?

English: Free choice compo

A break from Math. This was one of the last compositions done by Brian in UK, no date on the exercise book, but should be in June 2007. Not marked yet either, probably not handed up. He could write about anything he wanted. He chose to write a story about dinosaurs.

Here it is. Reads like something out of Calvin & Hobbes. And again, we have the mother shouting at the kid (yalah yalah, I know I'm always scolding you!).



"Mark, your room is a disgrace! Go and tidy it up at once!" shouted Mark's mum.

"But Mom - " Mark was interrupted by more shouts.

"Just tidy your room!"

Mark dug out a dinosaur from under his bed. It was dark green with a very long tail. It had two perfectly symmetrical pearls for eyes.

Mark pressed one of them and the mouth opened to reveal some colours that swirled as if they were in a whirlpool.

Then, without warning, Mark plunged straight into the mass of swirling colours.

Mark plunged straight into the mass of swirling colours

Chapter 2: CAPTURED!

Mark reappeared in a hot and humid place. He was in the jungle. He decided to look around for things that might be useful.

Suddenly he felt tired. He tried not to sleep but his eyes eventually closed against his will.

Mark woke up ten metres above the ground. He realized he was moving. Suddenly he found out that he was being carried inside the claws of a T-rex!

The size of T-rex compared to Mark

Mark considered slipping out of its grasp, but with one claw a hair's breadth from his neck he quickly forgot about his idea.

He saw a herd of dinosaurs grouped together.

Mark was taken to the centre. A brontosaurus spoke and Mark found he could understand it.

"You should be humiliated, tortured, and finally killed. The T-rex's decision is final!"

Chapter 3: DEFIANCE

The T-rex reached out to prod Mark in one direction.

Mark slapped its claw away. "Get off me, you big fat dozy lump!"

Mark slapped its claw away...

A whoop of delight from other dinosaurs told Mark that the T-rex was a tyrant.

The T-rex growled angrily and said, "Tomorrow I shall challenge you to an ability contest. The loser shall be banished into the jungle forever!"


It was the day of the contest and Mark still didn't know what to do. As Mark looked down at the Super Sticky Toffees he always had with him, he had the faintest of ideas.

Then Mark heard the Brontosaurus say, "Let the contest begin!"

Two criminal Diplodocuses were led out.

The T-rex grabbed one and swallowed it in one gulp.

Mark gulped, too. How was he going to beat that?

TThe T-rex grabbed one and swallowed it in one gulp.

He put four toffees and made Diplodocus stand with one foot on each toffee. No matter how much it tried, it couldn't move!

"Now would every dinosaur stand behind the person they want to win," said the Brontosaurus.

Mark looked behind him. All the dinosaurs were standing behind Mark.

The Brontosaurus said, "In a dominating performance, Mark is the winner!"

No matter how much it tried, it couldn't move!

The T-rex stormed into the jungle, but from the look on its face Mark knew they would meet again.

Just then a Triceratops came running up. It said, "King Mark! King Mark!" "The eagles are attacking us!"

Chapter 5: THE CHASE

Mark had a plan.

He said, "Pteranadon, fly only where I tell you to. You'll have me on your back, so be careful. Velociraptors, if an eagle becomes helpless, attack it. Triceratops, if an eagle gets too close to me, charge into it."

Mark hopped onto the Pteranodon's back and it flew away.

Mark hopped onto the Pteranodon's back and it flew away.

Mark popped up behind an eagle. "Hello, you feathery fatbellies! Those beaks of yours couldn't slice a leaf!"

Mark flew into the jungle with the eagles chasing after him. The Pteranadon dodged past the tree trunks with amazing agility.

The eagles, however, stuck like feathered twigs into the tree trunks, where they were attacked by some Velociraptors.

Before Mark had reached the end of the jungle all the eagles were dead. Mark and his companions gave a cheer.

The eagles were defeated!

Chapter 6: ESCAPE!

That night, in the middle of the celebrations Mark slipped away. He had to get back to the present.

Besides, the dinosaurs would probably make him marry a girl dinosaur.

Besides, the dinosaurs would probably make him marry a girl dinosaur.

Suddenly the T-rex jumped out of a bush, grabbed Mark and dropped him into his mouth!

The T-rex had had its revenge.

Chapter 7: SAFE

Mark reappeared in his own room.

At first, he couldn't understand what had happened.

Then he realized that the T-rex's mouth was the portal to the present and life was perfect again.

Mark looked at the piles of toys surrounding the room. Well, almost perfect anyway.

Singapore Math 4

Attempted to solve by models 2 questions Monica put forth in the comments section of the previous post. Please let me know if I'm getting any closer to model mode.

1. Maria sold thrice as many $5 files as $10 files. She also sold twice as many $10 files as $20 files. She collected $160 more from selling $5 files than from selling $20 files.
a) How much did she collect from selling $5 files?
b) How many files did she sell altogether?

2. Joyce is 4 years old. Her mother was 25 years older than her last year.
a) In how many years' time will Joyce's age be 2/7 of her mother's age?
b) In how many years' time will Joyce's age be 3/8 of her mother's age?


Note: The difference between the ages of Joyce and her mother is constant at 25 years.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Singapore Math 3

Found these two PSLE 2008 questions from a parenting forum.

Question 1:

In April, 40% of the people who went to the museum were children. The rest were adults. The number of women was 3/4 the total number of adults. The rest were men.

In May, the number of children increased by 20%. The number of adults was the same as in April but the number of women became only 3/5 of the adults. Then, the number of children became 336 more than the number of women.

a) What is the ratio for the number of children to the number of men to the number of women in April?
b) How many people went to the museum in May?

Brian's solution: Using ratios
a) is straightforward; C:M:W --> 40:15:45 --> 8:3:9

C:W:M --> 8:9:3

20% increase in children --> 8X1.2 = 9.6
W:M --> 3:2 (total 5 units)
convert from earlier W:M ratio of 9:3 (12 units); so multiply by 12 and divide by 5
W:M --> 7.2:4.8 (12 units)

C:W:M --> 9.6:7.2:4.8
--> 96: 72: 48
--> 4:3:2

1 unit is therefore 336.
9 units will be 336 x 9 = 3024.

3024 people went to the museum in May.

Is there a model method for the above question? Brian couldn't do it using models.


Question 2

Brian invited some boys and girls, there are 20 more boys than girls. 3/4 of the boys and 2/3 of the girls managed to come. 19 children did not come. How many children did Brian invite?

Solutions may be sent to mathsingapore at gmail dot com. Thanks!

I confess I could do neither question above (the second one I was okay with algebra, not model), so stop calling me a Math whiz mum. Can't even solve PSLE questions!


For model solution: Check out Monica's post.

Singapore Math 2

Continuation from previous post.

This is also from P5 Challenging Math, Unit 1. It's a Challenge question where the solution doesn't show workings. The book's answer was 33, which is different from Brian's answer. Please let us know which answer is right, thanks; and also if the model is drawn correctly.

In a school, there are 45 more students in Primary 5 than in Primary . In Primary 4, there are 18 more girls than boys. There are 12 more boys in Primary 5 than in Primary 4. How many more girls than boys are there in Primary 5?

Solutions may be sent to mathsingapore at gmail dot com. Thanks!

Singapore Math 1

I said in this post that I'd be writing more about what both Brian and Sean are encountering when doing Singapore Math. I guess I haven't done much of that, have I? Actually, I think I haven't done ANY of that!

I did start a private blog (work in progress) in June, some months after I wrote that post, but that effort quickly fizzled out. However, in the past week (since Oct 11), I've been more productive, uploading questions and solutions; I am indeed Master Procrastinator, I had Brian's birthday and my Japan trip to plan and suitcases to pack, but I'd rather work on a Math blog!

Monica's the model mum, I'm not; we're just muddling our way through. I give up really quickly with many of these questions. I'm pretty sure the 'model' in our solutions is not standard, so any help is welcome in guiding us the right way.

I've just found out from a Singapore friend that the Math test for students returning from overseas (to get into secondary schools) is as tough as PSLE. Her daughter sat for the exams this past week, and there were 2000 kids in Expo, including Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and Indian kids. I was under the impression that overseas kids would not be expected to do PSLE-standard math, since they've not exposed to the methods taught to Singapore students.

So here we go: From P5 Challenging Math, Unit 1, No 23 (Challenge question, no solution provided). Just checked, this was not the Challenge question, and there was a solution provided but it looked like algebra to me.

A basket of 6 apples and 3 mangoes weighed 1kg320g. After 4 apples and 2 mangoes were eaten, the basket with the remaining fruits weighed 760g only. If a mango weighs 20g less than 4 times the mass of an apple, find
a) the mass of the basket,
b) the mass of the apple.

My model. Okaylah, can skip reading my attempt, I'm so rubbish at this I'm confused when I see my solution now!

Algebra Method

6a+3m+b=1320 ---------------(1)
2a+m+b=760 -----------------(2)
m+20=4a -> m=4a-20----------(3)
Substitute (3) into (1) and (2)

Substitute (4)into (5)
Substitue (6) into (5)

The mass of the basket is 480g
The mass of the apple is 50g
Brian's model

Is either of my model or Brian's acceptable? I'm sure there's a simpler way to present the model, so this is kind of an SOS out to all model moms and their kids out there. Thanks in advance.

Solutions may be sent to mathsingapore at gmail dot com. Thanks!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

And he's 11 today...

Brian and his friends have just woken up, it's 10am, and I think they only slept after 4am! I'm pooped too, difficult trying to sleep when 5 boys are in the next room talking loudly and laughing. They all sounded chirpy even at 4am, full of energy these kids! And they had had a full day, first school, then back to my place for bowling, then rushed over to Pokrovsky Hills for Trick or Treat and Haunted House.

This is Brian's first time going Trick or Treat, and my goodness, these kids do get excited over candies, don't they? Many of the houses were decorated really elaborately.

Closer look at the haunted house, which was hosted by Brian's friend Eric M's family; they built this with the help of some neighbours, just to make kids happy! Eric M says everyone calls his family the Crazy Canadians, cos they organise all the crazy stuff, like Haunted House, Snow Fort etc; I told him that he's just such a lucky kid.

Got back to our place at 8pm, cake-cutting, dinner, followed by Harry Potter movie. Didn't bake a cake nor cupcakes, aiyoh, lazy lah, so many things to think about. Bought this mousse-ice-cream-like cake; not nice at all. Should have relied on my own baking. Doesn't matter I guess, these kids just weren't interested in eating, they had loads of treats and were just munching candies while watching the movie.

After the movie, they went into the bedroom and played x-box. I know they stopped playing xbox around 1 plus am, and when I peeked in to wish Brian Happy Birthday, they were all standing on the floor, bed, holding on to one sword or another, but mostly just talking. Another round of xbox and by about 3am maybe, I nudged Eddie to go over and get them to stop playing. Even after stopping xbox, I could hear them talking loudly for another hour. And then suddenly, SILENCE! It's like they all shut down at the same time.

These kids are so witty and smart lah. Not sure if these are the cerebral ones that Brian's teacher was talking about, but they are definitely not nerds. They come across as extremely intelligent kids, easy-going, and very funny too. They talk to adults with no inhibitions at all. And boy, do they talk! But not in a ya-ya or arrogant way; they were pretty mature, and really cool, sweet, good kids.

And Monica, all four of them are oldest boys in their families. 3 of them are from families of only 2 boys, like Brian. Another is the oldest boy but he has an older and younger sister, and a baby brother. So you're right huh, about kids gravitating towards those who are same birth-order as them. And except for the one with the baby brother, all the rest think their kid brothers are annoying!

Thanks to Scrapblog, I was able to make personalised Thank You pictures, and placed these in a glass frame together with Halloween pictures, for each kid to take home and retain the good memories.

Phew, that's one thing done. Now to arrange packing for our trip to Singapore and then onwards to Tokyo. Will be pretty busy the few days I'm in Singapore (computers to repair, visa to renew etc), so won't be making firm plans to meet up with anyone. In December okay?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Walking encys NOT required

A comment from that Revamp Pri Ed site.

1. What do you think should be the desired outcomes for students at the end of primary education?
By 12, a child should be an independent learner, with teacher as a facilitator. He or she should know how to learn, where to find the needed information, and how to work in teams to solve problems/ situations. The next few decades will bring unexpected challenges, and children are rapidly outpacing their teachers in terms of technology. What we need are independent learners who can get together to brainstorm and share their strengths while recognising their weaknesses (no one is perfect, striving for 4As across the entire cohort is an unnecessary waste of time and resources.)

2. What would you like to see taking place in a typical primary school classroom and outside of the classroom?
Reading, writing and maths are SKILLS, everything else is CONTENT. Children do not need to be walking encyclopedias. They do need to have a fire for learning and to see the things they learn as relevant to their personal lives. Learning to pass exams defeat the purpose.

Maturity and humility requires perspective. History and human geography need to be seen as relevant subjects (but please don't add tests just to lend weight).

Acceleration should be allowed for advanced learners, from preschool levels. Learning how to tune the teachers out start there.

More time and space to think and play with ideas. More experiential learning, less tests and exams.

3. What are your views on single-session primary schools?
Single-session - great idea. School should start at 8.30 or 9am. Children should be able to get enough sleep.

4. What do you think are important qualities of primary school teachers?
Passion and aptitude in their chosen field, speak standard English. Definitely need a smaller student-teacher ratio to faciliate quality teaching.

Agree with all that's said there. And I couldn't agree more that Walking Encyclopaedias are not required. Am always drumming into Brian that unlike during my time, having lots of information in your head won't be a huge advantage anymore in future. With portable devices, anyone can google for info on the go (In fact, I told him I'm looking forward to an invention, where I can just press a button, say on a watch or pendant, and a hologram of a monitor and keyboard appears in front of me; ahhhh, this means I'll be able to surf anywhere, in the car, in the toilet...) What's more important is what you do with any info you have, hence the need to be constantly curious, to think critically, to have an opinion and voice it in a calm, rational manner.

And what do you know, based on what's written in that comment above, Brian's current school seems to be on the right track. The only thing is that the school does not allow for acceleration, though I would have to agree that the programme itself, PYP which leads to the IB, does allow the child to go as far or as little as he wants.

This is because lessons are conducted according to Units of Inquiry and aren't limiting; they are NOT content-heavy, but discussion-heavy. In a school year, knowledge is developed through inquiries into 6 transdisciplinary themes of global significance; Sharing the Planet, Who we are, Where we are in time and place, How we express ourselves, How the world works, How we organise ourselves. Somehow, lessons from the past stick in the children's minds, not like the way crammed knowledge regurgitated during exams are discarded and forgotten forever once the exam is over(speaking from my own experience).

For example, in one Unit of Inquiry last year, the theme "How We Organise Ourselves" was explored through a unit on advertising called "Made you Look!" The Central Idea for this unit is “Our judgement is constantly challenged by the media”. This idea is further broken down into areas of inquiry such as: the promotion of goods and services; the impact of advertising; the rights and responsibilities of consumers, marketeers and media. During the month or so that this unit is explored, Science will not feature in the classroom.

The class visited the Coca Cola factory and a parent came by to talk about this industry. Brian now looks at ads with a more critical eye, and no longer believes everything his senses are bombarded with. He'll go, "this is a good ad, cos you remember the product after the end of the advert." He likes to cite an ad he saw in a Singapore cinema, where they used Ferrero Rocher in the advert, but the advert was for something else, maybe TV or something, we can't remember. He said that's such a bad ad, cos all we remember is the chocolate! In groups, the class brainstormed on a product they want to promote, the characteristics of the product, target consumers, ad slogan etc; then each group acted and came up with their own advertisement, using a video-cam. Pretty funny.

And I can tell you, Brian did not find the unit easy-going at all. So in that sense, he is being challenged in school; to think about stuff around him, be more aware, think critically, learn the value of teamwork and realise that every person in the team has something to contribute.

This month, the unit of inquiry is about the Role of Government. They learnt about the different types of govts, fascism, monarchy, socialism, communism, democracy, anarchy (which isn't really a type of govt cos it means no govt) and went on a field trip visiting the Kremlin armoury museum. They also discussed the current US presidential elections.

The following scenario was put forth to the class: There's this white guy. As a child, his home had a black housekeeper, hired by and treated respectfully and well by his mother. In school, the white boy's teacher tells the class that all black people had smaller brains and hence are stupid. However, whenever the white boy wants to insult black people, his mother would scold him. The question: How would this white guy, now grown up, feel if Obama won. Most of the kids in class said the white man would be angry.

We don't discuss current affairs enough at home, and Brian isn't quite aware of the deep-rooted prejudices in societies, yep, he truly is colour-blind. His response? "The white guy will feel fine, cos he'll know that to have won the election, Obama must have somehow won the support of most of the white people." Aiyaiyaiyaiyaiiiiii....hahaha....when he told me, I said "HUH? What kind of answer is that? Not true what...maybe only a small group of white people voted for him, but all the non-whites did." Brian's teacher was most kind, he said, "That's a very interesting perspective. I hadn't thought of that." hahaha, seelah, teachers here so encouraging. Another example of the areas that Brian need exposure in, he's not worldly-wise enough. He's become more interested in watching the news these days though.

So yes, as what the comment-writer suggested, English, Math and Writing are taught as skills, but everything else is content within context, and that includes Science, History, Geography. Hmmm, now things are making some sense (I still would like more rigour in Math though.)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Question time again

It's been some time since Sean asked questions in a machine-gun like manner, like he did more than a year ago, see this and this.

Last night, out of nowhere, he came and plonked himself on my lap and said, "I want you to put my questions on the email thing." I usually type whatever he says on my gmail and save it as draft.

What is wood made of?
Are termites relatives of ants?
How fast is light?
What's a text? (points to the word Plain Text on my gmail page)
What is quantum theory?
What do devices mean? Like electrical devices.
What's a million times a million?
What does invisible mean? (haha, he's seeing something on my gmail chat)
Is there such a thing as z-mail? Like there's email and gmail and I think there's sea mail.
How does your brain work without anything to control it?
How many ants are there in the world?
What's a nano-second?
How often do you get mail?
Why do leaves lose their chlorophyll in autumn?
If the bigger you are the more things that orbit you, then why don't I orbit my mummy? I stopped and went HOW DARE YOU!!!! He giggled.

He paused, "That's all."
Me: Oh, I'm sure there's more, I like it when you ask lots and lots and lots and lots of questions.
Sean: That would be only when I was young.
Me: :(

Half a minute later,

Sean: Actually, why don't people want to be naked?

How smart is your right foot?

Not sure if you guys have seen this, but I just got this from my friend Karen. FUNNY!

"This is hysterical.
You have to try this.
It is absolutely true.
I guess there are some things that the brain cannot handle.

You have to try this please, it takes 2 seconds.
I could not believe this!!! It is from an orthopedic surgeon............. This will boggle your mind and will keep you trying over and over again to see if you can outsmart your foot, but, you can't.
It's preprogrammed in your brain!
1. Without anyone watching you (they will think you are GOOFY.......)and while sitting at your desk in front of your computer, lift your right foot off the floor and make clockwise circles.
2. Now, while doing this, draw the number '6' in the air with your right hand.
Your foot will change direction.

I told you so!!!
And there's nothing you can do about it!

You and I both know how stupid it is, but before the day is done you are going to try it again, if you've not already done so. Send it to your friends to frustrate them too. :-)"

Revamping Sg primary education

Got the following from here.

"The Ministry of Education (MOE) has formed a Committee, led by Senior Minister of State for National Development and Education, Ms Grace Fu, to study ways to enhance primary education. The Primary Education Review & Implementation (PERI) Committee would like to seek the public’s views on how to shift towards a more balanced education system, in order to produce students who are more work-ready, world-ready and life-ready.

In particular, we would like to seek your views on the following questions:
1. What do you think should be the desired outcomes for students at the end of primary education?
2. What would you like to see taking place in a typical primary school classroom and outside of the classroom?
3. What are your views on single-session primary schools?
4. What do you think are important qualities of primary school teachers?

Please note that this thread will close on 15 Nov 08."

Too late for most of our kids, but those of you with babies, there's still hope yet, charge forth with your views!!

Countdown to Tomorrow

Brian turns 11 this Saturday and the invites have been sent (above picture). A few of his friends are celebrating his birthday with him after school tomorrow, they'll have bowling followed by a sleepover. I was spared the need to organise activities for them after bowling cos tomorrow night is also Trick or Treat night at Pokrovsky Hills, a secured gated development of townhouses linked to school. Every kid in school wants to live in PH, when you're in there, it doesn't feel like you're in Moscow at all. My Japanese friend's kid wakes up at 820 to rush off to school by 830! But it's also terribly expensive to rent, we didn't even consider it an option.

Anyway, I received this email from Brian's friend's dad, "First of all, Eric would love to go to Brian's Birthday party. Pokrovsky Hills has officially announced yesterday that they will be holding Halloween Trick or Treat night on the 17th from 5 PM 'til 9 PM. I know that you've probably made reservations for the bowling and we aren't asking you to change your plans, but we were hoping that you could find a way to include the Halloween evening in your Birthday plans. I think the boys are really looking forward to this night, especially since we are one of the two families hosting the Haunted House. Maybe we could arrange a special VIP entrance to the house or something?"

I immediately thought YES! and PHEW! when I got this email; Yahoo! No need to plan for games/activities; 11-year olds are so judgmental, they are probably gonna find my games lame. So it'll be bowling; then head for PH for Trick or Treat and Haunted House, then get back home for cake and supper; and the kids can watch a late night movie then sleep, though I was warned by that dad, "WARNING... I have yet to see any "SLEEPING" done at a sleep-over!!!!"

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

a-cookin' and a-surfin'

I admit to being a slave to the internet, but while it may seem that I'm always using the computer, let it be known that I do do other more productive stuff even while I'm surfing. It's called multi-tasking, you guys should try it some time.

Eg, even as I type this, my kitchen is bursting with the flavourful aroma of beef rendang. I'm making a huge batch this time, about 2kg I think, and am about half-way through cooking. Started the preparation around 11am and the cooking around noon. For the rendang to be tender, I need to simmer it for about 6 hours, well, that's how I do it anyway, really slow with tender loving care. I do love my rendang...but I do love the internet I get both :)


And 3 hours later, we have this. Almost good enough to eat (I've already 'tasted' 6 pieces), but not quite yet, I like it a bit dryer. If only I had some serunding, would be perfecto mundo.

Oi! My hair doesn't stick out like that!!

This is from Brian's Religious Education exercise book dated 9th March 2007. Asked for an example of when he was tempted, he wrote, "Once I was tempted to read a Tom and Jerry book while doing Chinese and I got caught."

And look! He drew me! As if lah my hair is like that!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

English: Sea poems

Two poems about the sea (dated 19 January 2007).

Sea poem 1

I went on a sea journey,
Through the jagged rocks,
Sailing against the stormy wind,
The rain beating down on our ship,
The dark blue water in our faces,
Salt water washing people overboard,
All those things didn't get me,
But the sea monsters did.

I don't think the 2nd is actually a poem, doesn't look or sound anything like one.

Sea poem 2

What causes a tsunami?
When a sea monster jumps into the sea.
What causes ships to sink?
When sea monsters bite holes in them.
What causes boats to capsize?
When sea monsters push them over.
Why is the sea salty?
Because sea monsters put salt on their food but it dissolves.


Teachers overseas are always encouraging, even when the child's obviously on the wrong track, they're never harsh nor do they belittle the child. Really great for self-esteem.

English: Pen-pal letter

I'm pretty sure this would be marked poorly by Singapore teachers, "Unrealistic! Too outlandish." In UK, this was perfectly acceptable.

Assignment: Letter to a pen-pal.

Jewel Castle
Sparkling House
Crown Lane

29 January 2007

Kew Green Prep School
Layton House
Ferry Lane

Dear Friend,

My name is Prince Lepidopterano III. I have a private jet and a luxury cruise boat. I have ten dogs, nine cats, eight tigers, seven snakes, six rabbits, five hamsters, four lions and a cute pig, all tame and not any trouble at all. I have a cinema where I can watch the latest movies and I own all the toy shops in my country. I have a million dollars in my bank account which is under the name of Cocopactes. The walls of my house are inlaid with emeralds, rubies, sapphires and other diamonds. If you like, I can arrange for you to go on my luxury cruise boat.

Yours royally,
Prince Lepidopterano III

ps Just call me Lep.


English: Peter Pan meets Garfield

In this assignment dated 20 June 2007, Brian's teacher told them to write about two characters meeting each other.

Garfield: Hello, what's your name?
Peter Pan: My name's Peter Pan.
G: My name's Garfield. Do you have any lasagne?
P: No, I don't. What's lasagne?
G: You don't know what lasagne is? Poor child. Why are you at this New Year party? You look far too young.
P: Well, I am a story character. I'd never known what a party was, so I flew here. Why are you here?
G: I knew there was a lot of food at parties, so there would probably be lasagne. Excuse me.
(Garfield dives into a large pan of lasagne, eats it all, and shakes himself dry, spraying everyone with tomato sauce in the process).
G: That was delicious. So, did you say you could fly?
P: Yes, I can fly. I also have my own fairy. Her name is Tinker Bell.

Unfortunately, the assignment wasn't completed, we must have left school around then. But Peter Pan meets Garfield for an assignment on two characters meeting? I wonder if Singapore teachers would accept this. Brian's teacher's comment was "Great so far".

English: Synonyms for "said"

Brian's class work, 6 October 2006, 2 weeks before he turned 9. All the names here are of his school friends, and Mrs Parker was his form teacher. The river he's writing about is River Thames, which he can see from the classroom of his lovely school by Royal Botanical Gardens.


"It looks as though it might rain," reported Brian.

"Yeh, look at those stormy grey clouds," Arabelle whined.

"Oh no! That means it'll be a wet break!" groaned Ivan.

"No 'IT' too! I feel like the world's about to end," moaned Cristobal.

"Come on you four. Pay attention to your work," ordered Mrs Parker.

Half an hour later....

"Look out of the window!" Mrs Parker exclaimed. "I've never seen anything like it."

"Aaargh!" screeched Edward, "If that river keeps rising, we'll all be swept away!"

"It's as though someone has opened the heavens and emptied out a bucket of water," sang Jack.

"It reminds me of the story of Noah's ark," whispered William.

"It's at times like this that you really wish you had a boat," suggested David.

The rain lashed the sides of the school building. The window panes rattled with the force of the rain. The flood barrier strained to hold the water at bay. Passersby scurried along the tow path sheltering beneath dinosaur sized umbrellas. Gradually the powerful storm subsided and from their safe watching place, Year 4 breathed a sigh of relief!


Storyboard: Anne Frank's life

I dug up Brian's old exercise books from UK and found this storyboard in his Humanities book. I don't remember seeing this before. Done in February 2007.

Anne Frank's diary, comic-ally.

Detailed panels:
1. Hitler was elected president of Germany.

2. Anne Frank's family moved to Amsterdam but it was invaded by the Germans.

3. Anne Frank's family went into hiding.

4. The Gestapo found out about it. They went to Westerbork.

5. Some Jews were chosen for death.

6. Anne caught typhus and died with her sister Margot.

7. Otto Frank found Anne's diary.

8. Anne's diary was published.

Just realised every panel has the word "Wah!" in it, fella trying to be funny.

English the way it's taught abroad

Okay, I couldn't think of a better title. Anyway, Monica's post today got me thinking about how English (and in particular compositions) has been taught in Brian's schools. I don't have any recollection of his work in Frankfurt, but I'll post some of the class work done in London later (not in this entry).

I would have to say the best schooling Brian has had so far has been in London. The jury's still out on his Moscow school; standard is appallingly low in core subjects like Mathematics, while Science instruction in the traditional sense is almost non-existent. I don't think English is even taught as a subject by itself, I'm not sure. Maybe I don't understand the PYP programme (see diagram below), which is offered by the International Baccalaureate (IB), enough. Teaching is done thematically through Units of Inquiry.

So back to English, I haven't seen any composition done by Brian this year. So maybe it's teacher-dependent. His teacher's strength is in Math. Last year's teacher loved reading out loud to the children, and she does this every day. She has a huge personal collection of books in her classroom which the child could just take home (and return later of course) any time.

Two pieces of work that Brian worked on last academic year were this and this. Another creative writing lesson rendered this and this. I think that was about all the English work he produced last year. If there were more, I'm not aware of them; they may have ended up crumpled in his messy locker.

This is a huge contrast to the way English is taught by the English! In London, there were English lessons every day, and writing is required in a host of other subjects like Religious Education, Humanities, even Science. It wasn't always classroom instruction; there was always something going on in that school. The class put up many sketches, skits, went to the theatre, to Roald Dahl's museum and had ample opportunities to take part in school musicals and plays.

I've posted some of his London writing before, this and this, both written in January 2007. I'm browsing through his exercise book and saw that before the first composition, he made a plan/outline of what his story was about. For the second one, it was based on the structure of another poem. That's all I could gather from his old exercise book. Oh just found another one, this one's quite funny.

All I can say is Brian's writing ability is miles ahead of his peers here BUT in the UK, there are definitely kids who write much, much, better. So which method of instruction works, you tell me. Again, it may not be the curriculum, but how it's implemented by the school. Boils down to something I always believe, expect much and you get much, expect little, you get little.

More about English later.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Red Square & St Basil's Cathedral

Bright and cheery picture of the boys in Red Square, with St Basil's Cathedral behind them. We went there right after Gorky Park last month (I was testing out my then-new DSLR remember?), but was too lazy to organise the pictures.

St Basil's Cathedral, built in the 16th century, is probably Moscow's best-known icon and it's as beautiful in real life as it is in pictures. Its design comprises nine individual chapels, each topped with a unique onion dome. The next two pictures were taken from the south side of the cathedral while the picture above was taken from the Red Square side, which I think is prettier and more vibrant. The cathedral is located on the south side of Red Square, and it is NOT part of The Kremlin, as many mistakenly think.

In front of the cathedral stands this bronze statue of Kuzma Minin and Dmitry Pozharsky (picture below), who rallied Russia's volunteer army and drove out invading Polish forces during the Time of Troubles (late 16th and early 17th centuries).

So standing on Red Square and facing south, you see St Basil's Cathedral. Turn right and you'll see the Kremlin Wall (see picture below), the defense wall that surrounds The Moscow Kremlin. Originally designed as a medieval fortress, the Kremlin is the current seat of the Russian government and home of the President. There are churches, palaces, armories, watchtowers, beautiful gardens and a forest in the Kremlin.

One day I will take pictures inside The Kremlin; again the Red Square is NOT The Kremlin, even though many news reporters stand on Red Square in front of the cathedral when reporting news out of Kremlin.

See the 3 ladies (well one is cropped out of the picture) on the right? They kept looking at the boys, amused at their obsession with walking on lines/patterns. These ladies are from the US and in their vibrant coloured jackets, just remind me of the colourful fairies in the Sleeping Beauty cartoon, don't know why :)

The picture above is when the ladies first spotted the boys. Seelah, these boys, so uncultured, surrounded by history and all they want to do is compete with each other not to step out of the yellow line.

Anyway, imagine you turned right again after facing the Kremlin Wall (still on picture above), now you'll be facing the north side of Red Square. At the end of the Kremlin Wall is Lenin's mausoleum and next to this, on the right of the picture is a red building, the State Historical Building.

This red building has nothing to do with how Red Square was named. The Red Square is actually the 695 meters long and 130 meters wide city square that the boys are walking on.

From Wikipedia: The name of Red Square derives neither from the colour of the bricks around it nor from the link between the colour red and communism. Rather, the name came about because the Russian word красная (krasnaya) can mean either "red" or "beautiful" (the latter meaning is archaic).

After playing "Let's not step out of the yellow line", now it's "Step only on white lines or you're out". Tak boleh tahan them.

Next to the red building is the Kazan Cathedral (you can barely see it in the photo) and on the right is GUM, a shopping centre.

Closer look at GUM which is beautifully ornate both on the outside as well as the inside.

So how? Does it feel like you've already been to Moscow? And you didn't even have to take the 10+ hour flight here. But if you think my review was crap, do make your way here, Singapore Airlines flies daily to Moscow, 4 times weekly direct flights and 3 times weekly via Dubai. The seats on the direct flights are extra comfortable and spacious. Come lah...

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Minako and her art

This is my friend Minako. Well, it's a self-portrait painted by her. The painting's beautiful, but doesn't really do justice to Minako, who is much more gorgeous in real life, with to-die-for porcelain smooth complexion that makes me go green with envy each time I see her.

This classy lady is an art conservator by profession (how cool is that?) but she paints too, pretty awesomely I must say. Her specialty is portraits with intricate chinois-inspired details.

My favourite though is this (pencil? charcoal?) drawing of her teenage son. So simple yet it fully captures a teenager's sense of joie de vivre and devil-may-care attitude. Love it. Minako's stories about her battles with her boy always make me laugh yet even as we laugh, we both know it's only a matter of time before my turn comes.

While Minako has her own website (for art conservation), she's still looking for someone to design a site to display her paintings. In the meantime, I've put some of them together here. I believe among these there's a portrait of her little 4th-grader Sophia. Enjoy!