Archive | January, 2011

Part 2 Tips from an Olympiad Instructor

27 Jan

Mr. Khoo Seng Teck :

Students should get a feel on how the question works, or how the relations between numbers turn out. Surely a pattern must appear somewhere, and it is later up to them to translate the pattern into the answer the question requires.

For a start, pupils can learn to simplify the problem, to look for a pattern or relation, by breaking it down into simpler portions then assembling them back. Besides learning how to dissect the problems into simpler portions, students should have a good grasp on numbers and operations, which will aid them in solving the question much faster. Examples include:

Knowing the squares of numbers 1 to 30
Manipulating the expression for easier multiplication. (How would you multiply 198 and 199 faster than your normal technique?)

Finding faster ways to add many terms: E.g. 1+2+…+100

With determination and some ingenuity, they can solve whatever problems that are posed to them.

Tips from an Olympiad Instructor

26 Jan

Dear Parents and Readers,

This post would be the first part of a message from Mr. Khoo Seng Teck. He is one of our instructors and he took the time to say something that he thinks would benefit our students and perhaps others too.

I have interacted with many pupils from Primary 4 to Secondary school in the various Olympiad training modules I have taught. Having been a contestant in various mathematical competitions, I have a piece of useful but very simple advice for them if they aspire to perform well — Keep Trying.

That is no secret and is the hallmark of any person who wants to achieve success. Both persistence and focus are needed.

Pupils and their parents must understand that the format and requirements for competition mathematics and academic mathematics are vastly different. In academic mathematics, with the prescribed techniques taught by the teachers, pupils will often see the answers relatively fast. However, the same cannot be said for competition mathematics. Questions often involve the amalgamation of different skills and techniques, and it takes more than ‘copy-and-paste’ methods to get the answers.

So I would say, there is no magic formula of drilling here. We are teaching concepts. It is not “10 year” series type of learning the techniques and so one would be able to do well in the major competitions. The instructor is looking for understanding. We as instructors hasten the learning but there are lots of exploration and trying that the student must do on his own.

I will continue with part 2 in a later post.

Instructors too have to learn

11 Jan


Training starts again. Today.

This morning, all of us trainers will be having centralized training at Maths Hub. We often share our knowledge and help one another improve. I think it is good practice and it  helps us to bond. So not only are our students getting lessons, so are we.

Actually our training goes on throughout the whole year. All of us and Michael put in the hours outside our working time for training……it is our commitment to the job.

It is fun for us and just a little bit “stressful” when it is our turn to present to fellow trainers!

Learning never stops.

Starting The Year 2011

10 Jan

It has been a great week. It was nice meeting parents and students. Many parents whom I am familiar with, dropped by to catch up last Saturday. Some of the students were so excited to be back, a handful could not wait for class to start. The trainers feel the same too. We are just as excited as you are to start teaching.

Besides teaching, we are also looking forward to our new cycle of training by Michael at Maths Hub, starting this week.

The Year 2010 for Math Arena

5 Jan

Hello Readers,

We are now slightly more than a year old. The centre has grown steadily in student population. Personally for me, this makes the centre lively and full of interaction.

When we first started with small classes in Bedok, students were equally distributed for syllabus and olympiad math classes.  Then our olympiad math classes grew more rapidly… not surprisingly as the core strength of Maths Hub and ourselves is in olympiad math.

For most parents, even those whose children had gained direct school admissions, PSLE will ultimately be of concern. Interestingly, based on our 2010 blog statistics, articles and questions and solutions related to it are the most well read in our blog. Indeed the centre does run the A* classes for PSLE math.

The popularity of olympiad math classes is rather interesting, considering this being a niche interest, it must be a big niche. Many schools are including it in their enrichment classes. Hence our trainers are out in schools in the afternoon, conducting such classes.

Not quite incidentally, one of our students who was with us since we started out in Bedok, did very well in SMOPS and went on to top Tao Nan PSLE results and is ranked second in Singapore. She is non GEP. “So is it Nature or Nurture?” I asked her. “Nurture …” was her answer. This very accomplished young lady, including in non-academic work, is disciplined and focused. Hats off to her mother too who is committed and supportive of her…a most important role played behind the scene, as many mothers do.

For 2010 and certainly beyond, the most rewarding is to see our students improve and enjoy their learning. Keep it a journey for the children and for us adults too.