Monthly Archives: June 2015

Another article found in The Malaysian Insider

Empty schools, crowded jails

by Cheryl Ann Fernando

Just before the school holidays, I made a few dreaded phone calls. I had to ask my student’s parents if their child still wanted to continue school.

These students have been absent for long and despite the school’s attempt to call or visit them, many still refused to come to school.

One parent, in resignation, told me that he’d come to school to sign the letter so we can remove his child from our school list. I asked if there was anything else we could do, or if I could speak to him one more time.

“Thank you, teacher, for your effort. We both tried but if he doesn’t want to continue school, then we’ll let him be,” was the only answer I got.

I couldn’t help but feel partially responsible for these dropouts. I didn’t have it in me to support them and at least see them through their final year in school.

The school didn’t have the capacity to support them. In the community they lived in, many students dropped out before completing their formal education. These students needed the extra help but there was nothing present to help them. As a result, the child makes his own decision which often leads to leaving school.

Countless research has been done on why a child decides to drop out. From socioeconomic reasons to learning difficulties, we are all aware of the causes.

Perhaps, the most evident reason a child chooses to leave school is because he does not fit into the traditional classroom and school mould.  As a teacher, I’ve come to realise that our education system is perfect for average students.

We have what it takes to push them to be better and maybe even to reach the above-average standards. We can cater to any student, as long as he or she fits into a predetermined mould.

We cannot deal with the students who fall behind. As our education system is continuously progressing and adopting new policies and strategies, we keep forgetting our struggling students.

While we talk about including information technology into our syllabus, more subjects and a rigorous curriculum, we forget that somewhere in a class, there is a student struggling to read at 17 years old.

If you ask me what my students need the most, I will tell you that they just need basic literacy and numeracy skills. They need to know that being literate is empowering and above it all, they need a system that will help them be the best they can be, in their own capacity.

As long as our children are ignored, our greatest problem will soon be the large number of students who are illiterate and involved in social ills.

I remember asking a student once why he isn’t coming to school and his simple answer was that he was hungry. He would rather go out to look for scrap metal than to sit in school. How do you tell a 13-year-old who is hungry that coming to school is more important than working for some food?

I know, for a fact, that many schools work hard to keep students in school. From visiting them at home to buying groceries and giving them food during recess, we try to help these students.

But, we need more than Band-Aid solutions. In the midst of revamping our curriculum and trying to achieve world-class standards, we must be mindful of the large number of our students who are failing to meet the basic literacy requirements and thus leaving school because they struggle financially and do not see the need for education.

Above all, we must remember that the same students who leave school will be the ones who are most likely to commit crime or get involved in drugs.

I believe, as long as we keep allowing our students to leave school, we will soon be left with empty schools and crowded jails. – June 18, 2015.

How Math Should Be Taught

How Students Should be Taught Mathematics:

Reflections from Research and Practice

Jo Boaler, Professor of Mathematics Education, Stanford University

Mathematics classrooms should be places where students:

Develop an inquiry relationship with mathematics, approaching math with curiosity, courage, confidence & intuition.

Talk to each other and the teachers about ideas – Why did I choose this method?  Does it work with other cases?  How is the method similar or different to methods other people used?

Work on mathematics tasks that can be solved in different ways and/or with different solutions.

Work on mathematics tasks with a low entry point but a very high ceiling – so that students are constantly challenged and working at the highest and most appropriate level for them.

Work on mathematics tasks that are complex, involve more than one method or area of mathematics, and that often, but not always, represent real world problems and applications.

Are given growth mindset messages at all times, through the ways they are grouped together, the tasks they work on, the messages they hear, and the assessment and grading.

Are assessed formatively – to inform learning – not summatively to give a rank with their peers.  Students should regularly receive diagnostic feedback on their work, instead of grades or scores.  Summative assessments are best used at the end of courses.

Mathematics classrooms should be places where students believe:

Everyone can do well in math.

Mathematics problems can be solved with many different insights and methods.

Mistakes are valuable, they encourage brain growth and learning.

Mathematics will help them in their lives, not because they will see the same types of problems in the real world but because they are learning to think quantitatively and abstractly and developing in inquiry relationship with math.

Picture book- For general understanding of measurements

This book is great for general understanding of measurements. So why does Mr Archimedes’ bath always overflowed? Who is responsible for it- is it the Wombat, Goat or Kangaroo? As the foreword says, “Offers science in a story-book…”

Mr Archimedes' Bath

Some ways to use this book:

1) Exploring who the real Archimedes was

  • Who was Archimedes? (A Greek mathematician, philosopher and inventor who made significant contributions to geometry, arithmetic and mechanics).
  • Explore a map/route of where Archimedes came from, studied, lived and died.

2) Ordinals

  • Kangaroo was the first to stay out of the bath, Goat was the second and Wombat was the third.

3) Exploring the law of displacement

  • In very simple terms, the law of displacement proposes that any floating object displaces its own weight of fluid.
  • Check out this video :
  • Carry out experiment with plastic animals in a container of water.

Book Review- Choice Words by Peter H. Johnston


Choice Words

The forward and the first four chapters are chock full of gems, providing an overview of how to use language effectively with students.  The remainder of the book offers more examples of language and tips for building a democratic learning community. Also, be sure to check out both Appendix B and C for more examples of the actual impact of classroom language.

For those of us who have to put more concrete thought and planning into out words, this book is an extremely valuable resource. Have fun reading!!

How to Make an Air Cannon


  • 1 paper/ plastic drinking cup (bottom of cup should be smaller than the rim)
  • 1 deflated balloon
  • Scissors
  • Tape (optional)
  • Drill (optional)











  1. Use scissors to cut out the bottom of your paper cup. This hole should be about the size of a 50 cent coin or bigger. If you are using a plastic cup, get an adult to help you to drill a hole of the same size.6
  2. Stretch out the balloon a little by blowing into it and letting it out the air twice. Cut the tip of the balloon using scissors.7
  3. Spread out the balloon over the rim of your cup. You may want to use tape to make the balloon more secure by taping the edges of the balloon.       21
  4. Your air cannon is set! Pinch the middle of the stretched out balloon, pull back and let go.
  5. 9