Friday, June 29, 2012

How to help kids excel in problem solving

I came across George Polya & his work while attending the workshop on "How to help kids excel in problem solving" with Mdm Poh Yew few weeks ago.

One of his quotes;
It's foolish to answer a question that u do not understand....the student should not only understand it, he should also desire its solution.
It might sounds to u like stating the obvious. But it hit me hard. Like really haaarrdd. Apart from dyslexia, Emily is also suffering from dyscalculia. Technically, it is a specific learning disability involving innate difficulty in learning or comprehending arithmetic. In reality, it looks something like this.
I had no idea how severe is her dyscalculia. But it's enough to give me a headache. It's a struggle for both of us. I have written about our struggle with Maths here. Since then, she seems to be OK with simple Maths. Addition, subtraction and multiplication. But I noticed she cannot do words problem. She really struggle with words problem.

I spoke to Poh Yew about her issues, and heeding her advice, I tested Emily's capabilities level by level. I need to find out her actual level. Start from there and gradually go up. And I figured out her actual level is at Standard 1!!!! I was dumbfounded and relieved at the same time. Although I know she has problem, and is definitely a few years below her level, I never thought of going as low as Standard 1. Oh I know. At least we can start somewhere. That's a good news.

Poh Yew's taught us various tricks to make Maths interesting. Who says Maths cannot be fun?? Errr...actually I am more like asking myself...wakakaka ;-) But seriously, after learning so much from the workshop, I made a mental note to compile all these tricks and practise them with the kids. Not just Emily.

None of my kids love Maths. Primarily because we have been taught Maths the boring way. Maths=rote learning=drilling=calculationsssss. There's a huge difference between Mathematics and arithmetics.

Poh Yew doing the "See through the cup" trick.
The magical sorting. Punch some holes on the card and with a paper clip u will be able to sort out the card. 

Regardless of how u shuffled it.
Tadaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!! ;-)
U can make it descending or ascending in order. Depends on where u put your paper clip.
Curious to know how it happened? Check out the explanation here. And u will gain more understanding about binary system too.

Can a cone run up the hill? Apparently yes!! A good example of integrating Maths & Science.
I learn some great tips in teaching kids. Once in a while give a wrong question to your kids. Set question with no answer. Teach kids that it's possible for a question to have many answers. Or no answer. Encourage kids to make their own question. In solving the question, guide them. But never give them the answer. Train them to find fault and fix it. Not find fault and whine and complain and do nothing ;-)

We can start teaching Maths early. Young kids can start memorizing first. Then move to understanding the concept. Chinese academic system has proved that memorization will enhance later learning. Avoid testing young kids. Randomly pick some question but don't do all. Rote learning doesn't work with everybody. I know it doesn't work with Emily. It stressed her and she will start making more and more mistakes.
Learn to let nature take it's own course. Faster is not necessarily better. For example, we shouldn't force kids to write until they develop motor skill. Poh Yew also believed kids shouldn't jump grades.

Poh Yew shared with us different ways to develop creativity in problem solving.

1. Maths Magic.
It is a known fact that many magicians used Maths in their tricks.

2. Maths craft.
This will probably be my regular activity with Emily from now onward. She loves art & craft. It will be easier for me to occupy her with craft activities. It is a double yeayyy to me if she do craft and learn Maths too (without she realizing it) ;-)

An example of Maths craft. Intersecting triangles. U can find detailde instruction from here.
Math Craft Monday: Community Submissions (Plus How to Make a Modular Origami Intersecting Triangles Sculpture)
3. Games
Congkak, board games like Monopoly, snake & ladder, Yahtzee etc etc etc.
OK. Now you are probably wondering how does doing all these tricks & playing games lead to competency in Maths? Or improving creativity & problem solving skills?

The power to reason, developed mathematically, could transfer to any other field.
-Steedman Philip H

I stumbled upon this website and found out Alexander Graham Bell was obsessed with pyramids, building towers, buildings, boats, kites and eventually planes made entirely out of little tetrahedrons (triangular pyramids).

Cockpit of Bell's tetrahedral plane at his laboratory in Nova Scotia

Alexander Graham Bell's Tetrahedral Obsession

Although only one of Bell’s planes managed to fly under its own power, the tetrahedral frame structure was  a much used component of high tech architecture more than half a century later. Interesting huh??!!

Let's explore new ways to be great in Maths. Ehemm2....a noble excuse for ummi to buy more books...hahahaha. Found these books from the recent Times Book Sale. Dirt cheap.
So there u go kiddos. Maybe we will ditch the workbooks for a while. And have some fun!!! ;-)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Death and grateful.

I thought about death a lot lately. Death has been a recurring news to me for the past few weeks. Last month, a dear friend lost her battle with cancer and passed away. On Friday, a school friend fell in the bathroom and passed away. On Saturday, a friend's mother passed away. And a school friend's husband had a heart attack. Last night he passed away.

Most of them were in their 30's and 40's. People do die young. It's a crude reminder to me. Facebook probably makes it much easier to keep in touch with the happenings of people. Including people that are not so close to me. People I haven't been keeping in touch with in the real world. People that I get acquainted virtually.

Nevertheless, it's a reminder that death is certain. Looming over me all the time. I always take for granted that I have the luxury of time. I will grow old with Mr O and watch the kids grow. And watch my grand kids grow. Do all the things in my bucket list. Which is pretty long BTW. Before I politely say goodbye to the world and move on.

The blatant truth is I can die anytime. And if I die today, my last word to my loved ones is probably not a very nice one. It will probably be one of these;

"Tuck in your shirt !!"

"Tie your shoe lace"

"Comb your hair!!"

"Hurry up".....and after a while it will be "Can u freaking hurrrryyyyyyy uppp???"

"Get out of the bathroom. NOW!!"

"Finish your food. Eat the veges. And the fish pleaseee???"

"Who didn't clean the dishes in the sink????"

U get the drift right?

The irony is, I am fully aware of how petty all these things are. How insignificant it is to get things done according to "MY" standard. And yet, in the thick of it, it just seems freaking necessary. In fact, it's ESSENTIAL. It's like, Luqman will only turn out to be a good person if he tuck his shirt properly. And Hajar will turn out good if she learn how to comb her hair & tie her shoe lace properly. To be honest, as I am writing this, jotting down all these depressingly sad and painful thoughts, I have a hanger by my side. My magic wand trying to get Emily to clean up her room. And she's sulking while doing it. Probably cursing me silently too. It's the usual morning chaos. Sighhhhhhh.....

My late mother in law passed away 10 years ago. Luqman was 4yo++ and Hajar was 2yo++. Emily was 8 months old. Hajar & Emily had no memory of her. They were probably just too young. The only memory Luqman had of my late MIL was not a very nice one.

Although as a family, we are not that close but my kids had the privilege of being the only grand kids for a while. For both families. Mine & Mr O's. So naturally they were spoiled with all the attentions from the grand parents and the uncles and the aunties. My late MIL was a doting grand mother. I remember watching her singing nursery rhymes to the kids. Playing silly with the kids. She was with me in the labour room when I gave birth to Luqman. Sadly, the only memory Luqman had of her was the incidence she told him off for whining too much. I totally cannot recall. But he did.

Every time we talked about it, he will try to soften it and say.."Yeah ummi, people said she's really nice to me. And did lots of great stuffs. But I really cannot remember"

It's really sad. But I cannot change his memory. And shamefully, I don't even have pictures of her with the grand kids. Psychologically, human tend to remember bad incidence more than the good. So it probably make sense why Luqman cannot remember. So the only way to create good memories is probably to leave no room for bitter memories. Or realistically, very little room.

It's definitely easier said than done. I am just going to take one step at a time. Learn to laugh more. Learn to ignore. Learn not to be petty. Learn to tell my loved ones good things every day. Learn to live the moment. Joie de vivre. Learn to be grateful and thankful of the little2 things that we have.

Grateful of things like, my kids have the best dad in the world.

Flaws and all, I think he's perfect for the job. Despite him automatically turning off into mute mode at his own convenience. Which is pretty often BTW :P
Somebody told me over the weekend, in marriage it's better to be happy than to be right. After 16 years, I totally agree. One of the things I am very grateful about Mr O is how supportive he is of his crazy wife...ha3 ;-) Despite our lack of similarities. Whenever I want to do something, he will argue and turn into an MCP and switch off and turn mute and ignore me and argue again. But in the end, (most of the times) he will still oblige.

He will do things like waking up early in the morning on a weekend to watch bird in Lake Garden coz his crazy wife wanted to.
Or go round and round Kota Bharu looking for a wayang kulit gallery coz his crazy wife think it's interesting for the kids ;-)
Or drag everybody to our weekly tafseer class. Although everybody is freaking tired and some of the kids will doze off because it's a week day night. Coz his crazy wife thinks the family should.
On certain things, my kids can relate to him more than they can relate to me. Most of the times, I am the serious one in the house. He's the Joker & the Fun Guy.

He's Hajar's cycling buddy.
And Luqman's guitar partner.
And Medina's computer buddy.
If they want to fix their song list in their ipod or download new games or buy new apps or outdo each other in computer games, he's the one they turn to. If he annoys them, I am the one they turn to. Kids love him. Though they don't really say. We are dysfunctional that way. It's still awkward to say it out loud. But I know they love him. They love making fun of him too.

So that's how it works in our house. It's far from perfect but I should be grateful. And I am. I pray the great memories will outnumber the bad memories. I pray my kids will remember the good stuffs. Not the nagging and screaming and pinching and mommy from hell stuffs.

O Allah, thank u. And make us the grateful ones. Amin.

BTW, Happy Father's day Mr O!! ;-)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Voluntouring in Bubbles Dive Resort, Perhentian Island.

Voluntourism has been in my bucket list for quite a while. Volunteer + Tourism = Voluntourism. It is volunteering while travelling. So when I found out Bubbles has Turtle Conservation Programme, it didn't take me long to decide where should we be going during the mid year school holiday.

Kids have been counting days, hours and minutes for this trip. It's going to be their first snorkeling trip. Oh well, it's the first for me and Mr O too. So finally we went there during the last week of the school holiday.

Can u see the excited face?? She's so fascinated by her "fire ball" hair ;-)
 The boat ride was about 30-40 minutes. Luckily nobody got sea sick.
Bubbles Dive Resort is very secluded. It's located at Tanjung Tukas, in the southern end of Pulau Perhentian Besar. It's a low density resort. So it was really great coz I hate crowd. Especially the school holiday crowd.

The main attraction here is the beach. The water is so clear that u can just snorkel off shore. Which was great for somebody who cannot swim like me....ha3. But it was great for small kids too. The beach has decent corals. And lots of fishes. We saw fishes, black tip sharks, sting ray and clam too. Not to mention u have the beach all to yourselves. Coz Bubbles is the only resort there. So u can snorkel anytime u want.
We went to a few places to snorkel. including the marine park. If u go to deeper place, u have higher chances to see the turtles and other type of sharks. But I still feel the best snorkeling experience for us was the one right off the beach.
The room at Bubbles is clean and spacious. They have basic facilities and air-cond. But don't expect fancy schmancy hotel accomodation. Food is OK. Service is good.

Little Missy was pretty upset coz there's no bath tub. She was like..."Ummi, can we change to another hotel?" ..wakakaka. Of course that was before she snorkel & clown fishes playfully hit her goggles. We didn't have an underwater camera. Which is a bummer. But now I can understand why my diver friends can't stop diving. The view under the water was so awesome. To a noob like us, it was out of the world. Medina kept screaming in auto rewind mode ""This is the best day of my life!!!" ;-)

Another great thing about Bubbles is the nature surrounding the resort.
We have lots of fun watching the birds and other animals. Learn loads of new stuffs too.
Purple throated sunbird (male).
Fish poison tree flower. Poisonous to the fish. Only blooms at night.
U can also go jungle trekking. The trail was marked. So it was pretty easy. Just look for the yellow mark on the tree.
 There were 2 options to choose.
View from the top.
But I was glad these girls chose to have their afternoon nap instead of jungle trekking. 
Coz I think the track would not be so easy to them. Especially younger kids. It took us almost 2 hours to complete the trail. It would definitely be much2 longer with them in tow.

As part of the conservation programme, kids did turtle watching. Briefing on turtle watching by Garreth. 
Hajar & Luqman patrolled the beach at night to watch out for the turtles. I zonked out much earlier with Medina. Kids learned conservation work is not as fancy as it sounds. Lots of hard work. And doing stuffs that other people do not fancy doing. Like cleaning up the beach. And some mundane boring stuffs too. So u need to be really committed. I found it's great for them to get to know people like Garreth. Luqman kept telling me how much Garreth loves doing what he does. How passionate he is with his work. etc etc etc. 
 Keep the rubbish away from the sea.
They also learned a bit about coral and reef conservation.
On our 2nd day in Bubbles, Mr O & Hajar had a pleasant surprise during their morning walk. They found a green turtle laying eggs.
Due to the low tide at night, the turtle came up early morning. Which is great coz u can see her in action clearly.
Hajar was beyond ecstatic to see the turtle live. And she is very3 passionate about the turtle. Which makes her extremely upset when the crowd get a bit too noisy & too close to the turtle. 
The rest of us were not so lucky with the turtles. We were asleep in the room. So we miss the fun. We were hoping there will be more coming. But the following few days were very2 low tide. No turtles for 2 nights in a row. But God listens to my little girl's prayer. On our last night there, one of the volunteers knocked our room at 1 am. It was a wet night. So we thought it was very unlikely the turtle will come up. But she did. And we were over the moon. Yeayyyyy!!! :-) 

BTW, the red light that u saw in the pic i.e the shorter of the two..was Medina's head light. She proudly stood there with the red light to watch the turtle while mumbling "This is amazing" 100X.
It was a very long process. It took about 3 hours for her to complete the whole process. Finding the right spot, digging, laying the eggs, burying, disguising the spot and finally swim back to the ocean. 

Once the turtle finished, the volunteer dug the hole and rescue the eggs. It was easy if they catch the turtle from the very beginning coz the volunteer will mark the location of the eggs when the turtle started. But it can be almost impossible to find the eggs if u miss the turtle. Coz they disguise the spot so well. 

The eggs were kept in the hatchery. In 2 months time, u will see hatchlingssss ;-)
It was very spiritual for me to watch the turtle trudging her way on shore to lay eggs. Of course I have seen them in the hatchery centre. But it's not the same with watching a turtle out in the wild. It was such a fitting finale to end our holiday. 

Happy faces ;-). Alhamdulillah.
I feel voluntouring makes the whole holiday experience more rewarding. It gives us opportunity to give back.  And it let us step out of the box. Beyond the typical glossy travelling brochures. It gives u insights how u can contribute towards a sustainable livelihoods. Not to mention, it's a great learning experience for me & the kids. 

It took a while for kids to grasp the concept. Why do we need to pay them to work for them?? To be honest, it took a while for me to convince Mr O too. To them it should be the other way round ;-) Voluntourism is quite common in the West. I think it's catching on in Malaysia too. I explained to them that the money that we paid goes into funding the conservation efforts. Though it might look quite a huge sum of money, conservation efforts do need funding. So it's our small contribution to support them. While holidaying with a cause. 

We will definitely volunteer again. If u know any interesting voluntouring opportunities for family, do let me know. 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Exploring Rimba Ilmu in UM.

It was the first day of school holiday. Luqman was in school for the PMR workshop. We had half a day to kill time. So we went to UM. It was our first time exploring Rimba Ilmu in UM. There were some events lined up to celebrate the World Environment Day.
There were exhibition booths.
Somebody was wondering when will ummi bring her camping.
 Favorite activity. Book shopping...ngeh3.
For RM$10, this book is a great buy.
There was exhibition on rain forests & the environment.

Outside, kids made some interesting findings.
The girls found a dragonfly nymph case.
 And of course, the dragon fly.
 BTW, all these close up pictures were taken by Mr O. Obviously working very hard to hone his photography skills with the new lenses :P

We visited the conservatory which housed the rare plants.
Uncle Gary explaining to the kids about the type of plants found in the conservatory.

The plant with one leaf and one stalk.
 Pitcher plant.
 Kids failed attempt to feed the pitcher plant with insects ;-)
We signed up for the scavenger hunt.

The hunt began.
 We won 3rd place ;-)
There was also a lecture on threatened wildlife by Mr Chris Shepherd from TRAFFIC.

It was a very interesting lecture. There were some gory details on inhumane acts of trafficking. In the name of greed and money and ignorance. And we learned that globally, Malaysia is one of the main trafficking point. Sigh!! SO much of Malaysia Boleh!! :-(

If u see any of these animals  in the pet shop, DO NOT buy them. Stop supporting the industry.

Overall, it was a good outing. We will definitely come back to Rimba Ilmu ;-)