Our Usual Jam Session

Our Usual Jam Session

My friend Penny visited us one day and insisted on recording this part of our homeschool journey because she was amused by our routine. As it was usual for my son and me to do music together, we didn’t think it was anything special.  Anyway, little Ethan was sufficiently persuaded by Auntie Penny’s amusement to play for her camera.  I’m sharing this video with the other Auntie Pennys who might be curious about the stuff we did with so much time in our hands, and why we had so much fun.

Let’s begin with a disclaimer to provide perspective – I’m not a professional musician.  The only music certificate I have was acquired at age 5 and it wasn’t even a Grade 1.  I did, however, at age 11, enjoy 2 years of classical guitar lessons at Yamaha Music School when they first opened.

Now, back to the video and sharing two points of learning for the little Ethan:

Tempo.  An internal metronome was ticking inside his head to provide him with timing. He had to feel secure enough to pause.  Without pauses, there can be no rhythm.  Pauses are scary because the player is required to WAIT and DO NOTHING.

Tune.  At the 1:13 of the video, you will see the song sheet that he was looking at during this session.  Notice that it contained only words and chords.  The lyrics he read with his eyes had to be translated into a familiar tune inside his head in advance of the song being played.  His brains would then instruct the fingers on his right hand on the notes to hit next.  The chords provided instructions for the fingers on his left hand.  The fingers have to be strong and coordinated sufficiently to be able to carry out those instructions.  If a wrong note was hit, his ears would catch the error, and then his fingers would have to adapt until his ears were satisfied that the tune resembled the melody line that was inside his head.   This feedback will go back and forth.

Technically, it sounds pretty complex, but in practice, it was quite simple.  Dealing with the stave and semiquavers in sheet music is a lot more daunting to me, and there are many people (like me) who enjoy learning to play music by non-traditional methods.  Notice the white disc on the piano top (in the video).  That was something I created to teach him theory – major and minor scales, the chord combinations and transpositions.  I taught my son to play the piano the way I play, by ear, by numbers and by patterns.  I’m glad that the methods that worked for me, worked for him too!  In the last 10 years, thanks to technology, many other new methods of learning, consuming and producing music have evolved. Check out youtube videos, synthesia,  MIDI and other software applications (apps).

If you are planning music lessons for  your child (and yourself), you are spoilt for choice, with many of these options available at very affordable prices.  Don’t feel restricted by traditions, just go with anything that brings joy.  The best way to start music lessons is in the spirit of fun.

I remind my son always:  We are not performers. We play music because music brings people together.  That is my wish for you too. 💐

My Dancing Queen

The Dancing Queen
Mom and me

 Mom taught me to do the cha-cha when I was little.  Back then, it was socially awkward for people to dance alone, thus making me a very available and convenient dance partner for Mom because she loved to dance.  Pa had made enough money in his career to afford a turntable and several records which provided Mom and me with the privilege of having music on demand, meaning we could dance repeatedly and whenever we liked, to an instrumental stereophonic soundtrack of Cherry Pink And Apple Blossom White with the trumpet leading the way.  (Click Here to hear how it sounded like).

Right, left, right, right.  
Left, right, left, left. 
Back, two, three four. 
Front, two, three, four.

she would teach me the steps.

“Don’t start too soon.  Wait for the first beat.  Listen carefully to the music…Pay attention, it’s coming… One, two, three, go!”  She taught me to hear the music, count the beat, feel the pulse, and groove along.  She was neither a musician nor a professional dancer, so dancing was not complicated.  She was not an educator, so there was no ambition to make me cleverer.  She was mom and her purpose was simply to dance, have fun and have us entertain each other.

I used to think that everyone could feel the pulse the way I did and often got frustrated with friends who seemed clueless about what I was trying to communicate in my effort to teach them to dance.  “Listen to the song!  Start on the first beat.  Can you hear the first beat?” I would ask.

“What first beat?” they would reply, then stare blankly at me in anticipation for a reply.  It finally dawned on me that they were truly clueless. 

In social dancing, people dance in pairs, and in order for 2 people to dance together, some form of synchronisation has to take place and this is governed by the tempo of the music.  If a partner can’t feel the rhythm and needs someone to count the beat throughout the tune, then dancing becomes mechanical, which is still fun, but very much less fun.

It took me a long time to realise why I could feel the pulse and how I acquired my sense of timing.  It was mom’s gift to me during my early years.  Precious, but I was slow to acknowledge it.  Thanks, Mom.

Math is about counting.  Years, days, hours, minutes, seconds, rate, speed, frequencies and etc.  These are all time-related units of measurement.  Musicians and dancers count all the time, they ought to be good in math, yet many of them struggle with the subject.  Conversely, mathematicians ought to be good musicians and dancers, but if you’ve seen them on the dance floor, uhmm… I should reserve my comments about that.

Understanding math in the form of beats or pulses, and being able to translate them into movement should be considered as legitimate as the ability to count sheep and writing the quantity as numerals on paper.  Unfortunately, civilisation hasn’t reached there yet and math exams are still conducted with ink on paper, while dance is yet to be considered a core subject.

But that said, what’s stopping you from flouting conventions and enjoying math with your child in movement rather than by sitting still?  Here’s my point, dance and consider it math lessons:

ONE, two, three, four.
TWO, two, three, four.
THREE, two, three, four.
FOUR, two three four.

4 bars of 4 beats makes 16 beats.  Write it for your child to see:

4 x 4 = 16

Let’s do math while we do the cha-cha! 

The Lunar Calendar

Counting time with 5 elements and 12 animals.

Fun facts about the lunar calendar and its naming conventions:

The Chinese built a 12-year cycle represented by twelve animals into a larger cycle of five elements:  metal, water, wood, fire, earth.  The animal changes every year, but the element changes every two years.  We are presently in the year of the Metal Rat – the first element paired with the first animal!  After this will come the year of the Metal Ox, followed by the Water Tiger, then the Water Rabbit, and so on.  The year of the Water Rat will arrive in 12 years.

12 animals x 5 elements = 60 years.

A person has to live through one complete cycle in order to acquire wisdom – the reason why the Chinese celebrate their 60th birthdays.  This means that the other surviving “metal rats” are either turning 60 or 120 years old.  Think about that! 

“Teach us to number our days that we may acquire a heart of wisdom.”
~ ancient proverb.

By the way, did you notice the use of the quinary (base 5), duodecimal (base 12) and sexagesimal (base 60) number systems here? Just because the schools teach only the decimal (base 10) system doesn’t mean that other systems don’t exist.  It’s good for your children to know that. 

Grandma taught me to recite the list of animals in Hokkien, together with its rhyme and rhythm.  If you are Chinese and know of elderly dialect speaking Chinese, get them to recite the list and record their voices.  Learn it because it’s fun, then teach it to your children and grandchildren.  That’s how we pass down the valuable tradition of counting without using numbers.

Happy Parenting!  💐

The World That Didn’t End

Wild flowers blooming. The earth is more resilient than we credit it for.

I remember March 10, 1982.  I was 14 years old, sitting in class and waiting to die.  A periodical I had read some days earlier informed me that the world was ending THAT day.  I didn’t want to go to school because facing termination with my family was much more comforting than facing termination alone, but I went to school anyway.  In class, my attention drifted between the teachers, who appeared clueless that the world was about to end, and the anticipation of a loud bang, a dimming sun or quaking floor.  No excitement happened, the end didn’t arrive.  I was a little disappointed that the day was boring as ever, but mostly relieved that every person who mattered to me was still alive!  I now know that the ending of the world on March 10, 1982 was prophecised in a book titled The Jupiter Effect.

Back then, my idea of an apocalyse was simple.  I knew exactly how The End Of The World would take place because Skeeta Davis had presented it to me in a song that had been playing in my home since my parents bought her album:  the sun would stop shining and the sea would stop rushing to shore.  Star Wars was barely in its second installment and sophisticated visual effects of movies had only begun to mess with my imagination.  Watch the original Star Wars movies before they were digitally remastered and you’ll get an idea of how far the movie industry has come.

18 year after my first apocalypse came Y2K, the idea that the world would be in chaos when the date changed from December 31, 1999 to January 1, 2000.  Because computer dating systems might not recognise the year rolling over from ’99 to ’00, planes might crash, bank accounts might disappear and factories might explode.  I must admit that I wasn’t completely at ease on December 31, 1999 because the cases proposed by the apocalypticists sounded legitimate.  Was I relieved when I heard the news that some nations had crossed over safely to January 1, 2000?  Yes.

Next came 2012, the doomsday that was anecdotally written about in an ancient calendar.  The prophesied event was even dramatised in a Hollywood blockbuster movie and presented as a far more frightening catastrophe than the 14-year-old me had imagined in 1982.  I didn’t have time to follow much of this story, but before I knew it, 2013 arrived.

Then came doomsday 23 September 2017, a date calculated from another ancient source.  You can guess the outcome of that prophecy too.

Which brings us to the important question:  Is the world coming to an end?  If so, when will that happen and how will we know?  Once again, somebody somewhere appears to knows exactly how and approximately when this will take place because children these days are taught that the earth is getting warmer and that its end is imminent if no action is taken to put a halt to its rising temperature!  According to them, although nothing can be done to stop the warming, many things can be done to slow it down.  The idea even has a name which isn’t worth mentioning here because the experts haven’t made up their minds about what to call it.

As a reformed doomsday junkie with the benefit of hindsight, I can identify many differences between the apocalyptic message I read about in 1982 and that which many children are taught in this generation.  Here are some:

  • The source of the message in 1982 was in the free market. I consumed the information at my free will.  It wasn’t fed to me by my school curriculum or class discussion.
  • I wasn’t made to feel guilty or bad for my view if it differed with the position held by the majority.  If I had to defend my view, I would have crumbled for the lack of maturity and the necessary vocabulary and confidence to articulate, and since my thoughts on the subject were planted in me by the media and spiced up by my teenaged hormones,  my defence would not have been worth much.
  • No prescribed response accompanied that piece of news in 1982, thus  no one was under social pressure to take, or not take, any action. In that sense, it was merely a harmless spook for most people.  However, the apocalyptic narrative that is told to the present generation of children requires nations to take real actions to mitigate an imaginary calamity made up of the collective imagination of movie producers and fiction writers.  Since it has never happened before, experts have to build mathematical models to predict the magnitude of imaginary repurcussions.  Then comes the real thing!  Other experts have to be engaged to draw up plans for real actions to prevent this imaginary problem.  Real actions cost real money.  Given that the people who believe the present apocalyptic prophecies are matured high ranking politicians (instead of a gullible 14-year-old) possessing spending power to purchase hope, hope has become a lucrative industry.  Let’s not talk about who’s money they are spending.  I invite you to read this comic piece I wrote explaining this agenda-problem-solution triad.  https://funfilledconversations.com/blog/2019/05/12/the-bounty/
  • Unlike previous poorly funded apocalyptic messages that bore definite termination dates, this modern message is timeless and rich with funding.  It is timeless because the prophets haven’t made up their minds regarding when the earth would get so warm that we would all perish by roasting, either at the same time or in turns by geographic location.  There were also suggestions that some people would freeze while others roast.  Extending that logic to the tiny sea-level island of  Singapore, I suppose we would likely drown, boil or steam.  Ha!

Apocalyptic prophecies are not new.  Ancient Mayan and Jewish writings reveal that people centuries ago thought the earth would reset in their generation as well.  Many modern day Christians still believe in the impending Day when they will stand before their Judge to give an account of their lives on earth.  The Chinese, on the other hand, do not have such ideas embeded in their traditions, at least not to my knowledge.

What are your thoughts about apocalyptic prophecies?  Do you think the earth is getting warmer?  Will it come to an end?  Does your child believe that the earth will end in his lifetime?  Is he afraid or confused?  If the end was happening tomorrow, would he live wrecklessly or meaningfully today? 

Have a conversation with your child about this subject.  If your child is 5-year or older, he would have been sufficiently bombarded by commercials, school and passing conversations to have a rough idea of this topic.  Kids are clever.   Address his concerns, share your opinion and offer hope.  It’s fine to say that you don’t have an answer.  Help him see that even smart adults don’t know it all.  If you fail to engage your child in this conversation and provide necessary filters, the media is happy to educate your child with their propaganda and he will have to derive sense out of possible nonsense on his own.  A gentle nudge to you that the apocalyptic message is usually depressing and hopeless, not a healthy thought for a child to ponder over.

So, do I believe that the earth is warming?  Of course not!  How can the earth be warming if hot air rises, heat gain equals heat loss, and if we lived in an enclosed dome? Yes, a closed terrarium, a geocentric earth or whatever you wish to call it!  Ha!  You’ll have to figure my logic out for yourself, and you don’t have to agree with me.  My 17-year-old son and I are still debating this after many years.  We are allowed to change our minds and positions anytime we like, no one is required to be locked into a single position.  Challenging the status quo does exercise our thinking and observation skills.  Some people call it nonsense talk,  but I prefer to call it a continuous fun-filled conversation!

Happy Parenting!  💐

Adding Colour to Math

Isn’t math so much clearer with colours? And alluring too!  You can now show your 8-year-old why the sum of odd numbers starting from one equals the square of the the number of terms.

Adding 1 Term   → 1 = 12
Adding 2 Terms → 1 + 3 = 22
Adding 3 Terms → 1 + 3 + 5 = 32
Adding 4 Terms → 1 + 3 + 5 + 7 = 42
Adding 5 Terms → 1 + 3 + 5 + 7 + 9  = 5 (See Diagram)
Adding 6 Terms → 1 + 3 + 5 + 7 + 9 + 11 = 62

and so on…..

Adding 250 terms → 1 + 3 + 5 + 7 + 9 + … + Term250 = 2502 = 62500

Here are some other ways of looking at the same sum.

You can even arrange the ascending odd numbers into a spiral mosaic!

Sometimes, math is better played than taught.  And who knows, such patterns may just show up in a PSLE exam!

By the way, I bought these colourful blocks/tiles from the toy department, not from the academic section. Fun-filled math conversations can be found everywhere!

And as we draw towards the close of the year and the beginning of a new one, here’s wishig you a Merry Christmas and a new year filled with forgiveness, love and laughter!

What Is 1 Centimetre?

Jotter Book

How do you like this page in my son’s jotter book?  It was a doodle produced during a continuous conversation about Length, a story I wrote about in Chapter 10 of Fun-filled Math Conversations With Your Child. You can see how much I enjoyed doodling and how much he disliked colouring. It was important that I taught him to translate the information floating inside his head into a readable and writable form on paper so that others can understand him.  This is called literacy.  Exams are paper-based after all.

The process went like this:

1.  He measured the objects with his personal measuring tape and read the measurements aloud. Reading aloud is important because if he couldn’t read it, then he wasn’t ready to write it. I scribbled his readings down somewhere.

2.  I turned to a blank page on his jotter book and drew some of the things he measured, after which he filled up the the blanks with his readings.  He knew perfectly well that my drawings were perfect misrepresentations of the actual objects he handled.  Despite the 17cm pencil being drawn longer than the 25cm jotter book on the page, he wasn’t bothered because he understood 17cm and 25cm in context of the actual lengths.

So here’s a teaser question for you:  What would he have learnt if I had skipped the measuring activity and given him the following worksheets instead?

Fictitious Worksheets

Now imagine yourself as a kid who is struggling to read, write and count, while figuring out how real objects are represented on paper.  How would you fill Worksheet 1?  Would the jotter book be 4cm long, pencil be 5cm, and eraser be 2cm (because you measured the picture on the book with a ruler)?  What if the ruler was drawn in for you (as in Worksheet 2)?  Would you cease knowing what 1cm actually is?  Would you be confused?  I write this post to bring humour and caution because I have found plenty of such material in the bookstores, the expensive ones are printed in full colour. 

If you are shopping for a workbook to help your children improve in math, make it your duty to check the material before buying them.  Be very protective of your children’s cognition. Handing them materials that confuse them can be disastrous. The damage will not be noticeable immediately, but its effects will show up later, making the problem hard to diagnose and expensive to undo.

Empowering your child with real life math skill should never start with worksheets.  It has to start with reading, in this case, reading a measuring tape. In a class of many students, who will your child read his measurements to?  Will guidance be available immediately if he read it wrongly?

Why don’t you provide that guidance instead? The cost to you would be $5 for a measuring tape and multiple fragments of time when both of you are in a queue together, or waiting for your bus, or just waiting.  There are so many things to measure while you are waiting – a blade of grass, a strand of hair, a $2 note,…  Convert those unproductive moments into useful fun-filled conversations.  Remember, if he can’t read it, then he’s not ready to write it.

I like to keep things simple.  Our happy moments with full freedom of expression, have been captured and collected in the blank pages of cheap jotter books that are flavoured with noodle and milo stains.  Precious.

Find the Pirate’s Treasure!

Surely you won’t want to miss out on our first ever Fun-filled Camp for the school holidays?! We wanted to do holiday programmes the Fun-filled way. Read on and grab your spots if your kids are 9-11yo!

Find The Pirate’s Treasure!

Can you find the pirate’s treasure before the clock runs out? This Fun-Filled Conversations Math Day Camp is all about hunting down a buried treasure using MOE’s Math Syllabus, geography and history. Along the way, you have to escape out of the puzzles to find the next clue. Can you handle the pressure?

Dates : 28 Nov 2019, Thursday
Venue : Qiren Organisation, 9 Tampines Grande, #02-11 to 22, Singapore 528735
Time : 3pm-6pm (snacks are provided. Our snacks may contain peanuts, meat sourced ingredients.)
Ages : 9-11 yo
Price : $90/child if you register before 15 Nov 2019. Usual rate is $98/child.
Max : 12 pax (no walk ins)

What to bring :

  1. Water bottle
  2. Compass and Protractor set (optional)
  3. Notebook
  4. Stationery
  5. Snacks (if you have allergies or diets)

Register your spot here.

The Educated, The Literate and The Common Sense Man

The Common Sense Man

Educated Illiterate! That’s what my mum called the people who frustrated her, people who were obviously able to read and write, but clearly stupid in her eyes. She was entitled to her freedom of speech and I made no judgment of her or of those people. It was Singapore in the 1970s. The ideas of education and literacy were catching on while intelligence was being defined and redefined.  Anyway, I was too young to even know what an “educated illiterate” was.

Literacy. The dictionary defines this as the ability to read and write. If we think about reading as the ability to convert symbols and visual shapes to audible sounds, and writing as the reverse process, then it is possible for a person to be literate in English and illiterate in Chinese, or for a computer literate to be a music illiterate. In other words, it is fair to say that everyone is literate in some ways and illiterate in many ways, and it is wise to consider a person who claims to know everything deluded, arrogant and dangerous.

Education is the process of receiving or giving systematic instructions.  By this definition, the Chinese butcher at our market who had received many years of systematic instructions in the art of cutting meat and learning the meat trade, should be considered an educated person. And since he didn’t read or write English, it would be fair to describe him as educated, but illiterate in English, but no, we were in the 70s and the devaluation of education in a trade or craft had begun.  The good natured Chinese butcher accepted his fate with a smile and labelled himself boh tak chek (roughly translated as uneducated).  He also ensured that his children didn’t follow his footsteps. Protesters of national initiatives that favoured the British form of education were considered troublesome citizens, and the Chinese butcher didn’t want to cause trouble during those turbulent times. He knew what was going on because he read the Chinese newspapers and discussed politics with the other boh tak chek stallowners beside him, activities which didn’t quite match self-declared uneduated folks. And he certainly knew his math because he could measure out meat on the weighing scale and was very good at counting money!

Intelligence is the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills.  This is tricky because the idea of intelligence has been sliced and spliced in many ways, starting with Intelligence Quotient, then Emotional Intelligence, and quickly followed by Multiple Intelligence. With the broadened definitions of intelligence, we should expect less unintelligent people in society, and stupid people should be almost extinct. I suppose that’s the reason why people take offence at being called stupid.

Who then is a stupid person?  He is one showing a lack of intelligence or common sense, a person who is dazed and unable to think clearly, one who lacks sound judgement in practical matters.  I didn’t define that, the dictionary did.  In this generation where pursuing education and literacy is the default and being a student is considered an occupation, not much has been discussed about how students can develop sound judgment and gain common sense.  This isn’t anyone’s fault.  How can common sense can be taught if stupidity cannot be discussed, especially with those who need it the most – the stupid people?

Whether educated or not, literate or not, intelligent or not, a person can be stupid by simply lacking common sense.  Until we come up with a non-offensive word to describe very bright people who need to turn on the light yet refuse to learn to change a light bulb, there is really no room for an honest discussion about true education and true intelligence.

In the meantime, while we pursue education, literacy and work on raising the intelligence of our children, let’s not forget to engage them in conversation about common sense and its antithesis, stupidity.  Talk about the bus driver and the gardener, and the things they need to know in order to be competent at their jobs.  Discuss how an individual pedestrian lacking common sense can do something stupid and endanger the lives of other people. You’ll be surprised at how much laugh you can get out of your children’s observations of the happenings around them.  It is during these moments when you show your interest in their thoughts, that they would be interested in yours too…. making them the best time for you to impart wisdom and common sense.

Happy Parenting!

What’s The Big Deal?

Math Puzzle 2019

The last Friday of each September is like D-Day for most Singaporeans turning 12 that year, and their parents.  It is the day they sit for the 2.5hr PSLE Math paper (65 minute break in between).  This question was reportedly featured in this year’s paper!

But… this questions looks more like a puzzle.  What is it doing in an exam paper?

Here’s a possible explanation (Snipped off from Page 31 of MOE’s Math Syllabus*):

At primary level, students …learn to…reason inductively by observing patterns, similarities and differences.

Ah hah, the ability to see patterns! So that’s what the examination board is possibly testing for.

But… in puzzle books, puzzles are laid out in increasing levels of difficulty, and this one should sit at the back of the book, shouldn’t it?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. My son bagged his A* in PSLE math some years ago, so I’m not a casualty here.

I love puzzles, so did my little son. In Fun-filled Math Conversations With Your Child, I wrote about how he and I would spend an entire day solving ONE puzzle. There were many of those days because chilling and bonding over puzzles was our thing.  We solved puzzles when we waited to board our plane, or for our food to arrive, or just waiting for the clock to tick until it was bedtime.  We were unhurried.  If the pressure of time was added to our experience, we would not have enjoyed solving the puzzles the way we did.

I agree with what’s written on Page 17 of MOE’s Math Syllabus*:

Students’ attitudes towards mathematics are shaped by their learning experiences.  Making the learning of mathematics fun, meaningful and relevant goes a long way to inculcating positive attitudes towards the subject.  Care and attention should be given to the design of the learning activities to build confidence in and develop appreciation for the subject.  Above all, students’ beliefs can influence their attitudes in learning, especially in student-centred learning where students are encouraged to take on more responsibility for their own learning.

I cannot reconcile what I read here, with an exam question that appears to have, from anecdotal reports, crushed many of the very same 12-year-olds that MOE desires to encourage.  I understand and appreciate that the Ministry Of Education (MOE) is trying to prepare our youths for a bright future (Page 2 of MOE’s Math Syllabus*):

A good understanding of basic mathematics is essential wherever calculations, measurements, graphical interpretations and statistical analysis are necessary. The learning of mathematics also provides an excellent vehicle to train the mind, and to develop the capacity to think logically, abstractly, critically and creatively.  These are important 21st century competencies that we must imbue in our students, so that they can lead a productive life and be life-long learners.

But… are there better ways of achieving this objective without traumatising a significant number of 12 year olds who are gifted in areas other than math?

Not all learning outcomes can be or should be tested in a national exam. Education can go very wrong if we try to measure every skill, especially if it involves the allocation of time and money. 

Is it possible to keep PLSE math exams simple, and stick to testing for basic mathematics that enables its graduates to function confidently in the real world, and not too much more?  Can the nice and fun puzzles created by the examination board (such as the one I featured in this essay) be used as a fun-filled classroom discussion instead?  I’m sure the question will garner more mileage in real learning that way.

I have a piece of advice for parents with children who are heading to PSLE in the near and distant future.  Do not overreact.  Resolve to have fun solving PSLE puzzles together with your children. If you need tips and strategies on how you can engage your children on this subject, get in touch with me for a parent coaching session, either one-to-one or in groups.  It’s my way of helping you save and redirect your money and time towards having fun with your children.

* https://www.moe.gov.sg/docs/default-source/document/education/syllabuses/sciences/files/mathematics_syllabus_primary_1_to_6.pdf

The Real Life Challenge

Math in Real Life

 The Ministry Of Education writes in its Mathematics Syllabus for primary education, about their goal to raise students who understand math in real life.  It is a good objective, but I wonder how they expect their teachers to carry that out when a large part of real life takes place outside the classroom.  Multiply that problem across a class of 40 students, with each having his own unique “real life” experiences, and you will understand how difficult that task is. Is it possible for even the best math teacher to engage all her students in real life math within the limited periods of Math lessons?  What is math in “real life” in the first place?

Real life math has to be set against real life experiences and problems.  Although it can be partially engineered for discussion in the classroom, it can only be fully understood when experienced outside its walls where real life is taking place.  Student who are taught math via only cropped pictures, diagrams or videos of situations, within the comfort of their classroom, have, at best, a skewed understanding of real life math. For instance, how will children ever understand a distance of 5km without ever walking it, or what 5 kg feels like without ever lifting it? In classroom math, 5 km or 5 kg is a matter of putting ink on paper without having to break a sweat.  Those who think they’ve learnt the lessons that way, i.e. by solving a problems that they have no contextual understanding about, are misguided.  They may achieve good grades now, gain false confidence, and create unnecessary problems in real life in later years, (which is a subject for another essay).  The fact is, without the full context of real life, learning real life math simply cannot take place.

However, what is close to impossible for teachers to do, is easily doable by parents, but not without effort.  Fortunate are children who have parents who are skilful, or who are learning to be skilful, in engaging them with helpful questions and timely answers to connect what they learn in class to the real world they live in, parents who take them out and make the effort to explain how the world functions.  Such conversations are precious. They will raise the child’s awareness and help them navigate life.  Inevitably, their IQ and EQ levels will rise to follow suit.

I wrote Fun-filled Math Conversations With Your Child for this purpose: to help parents hone that skill of finding and making useful math conversations with their children.  The message is simple:  IT IS POSSIBLE for you to have fun and bond with your child over math.

Please help me spread the message.  The book is now available at our online store.  You can also purchase it at Times Bookstore, Kinokuniya and The Health Shop at the Adelphi.