Books Recommendation: Math Fables

I really like these books by Greg Tang! We bought the Math Fables quite some time ago, and only recently (after Kor Kor’s math obsession) did I realise the book was about NUMBER BONDS! Haha!

For each number from 1 to 10, the author gives all the number bonds in the form of a story.

For each number from 1 to 10, the author gives all the number bonds in the form of a story.

4 = 3 + 1 4 + 2 + 2

4 = 3 + 1
4 = 2 + 2

I bought two more of Greg Tang’s books, and was not disappointed!

A short poem introduces each piece of art, Very informative and a good intro

A short poem introduces each piece of art, Very informative and a good intro

As we read, Kor Kor tries to find the different number bonds

As we read, Kor Kor tries to find the different number bonds


Actually, multiplication or not, I like the simple riddles & poems. A good read regardless of the maths

Actually, multiplication or not, I like the simple riddles & poems. A good read regardless of the maths


Homeschooling: Getting Into The Groove

OK, since I tag this blog as a homeschooling blog, I guess I should be more diligent in updating about our schooling, even though it’s just ten minutes a day :p In fact I have slashed our total ‘lesson time’ by 25%. Instead of ten minutes of seatwork for each of the boys, followed by ten minutes of readaloud by mummy each, I decided to do away with Didi’s seatwork. Because he’s really too young at 2+ lah. And I lazy. And too rushed cos Meimei might wake up anytime.

Kor Kor has finished his first ever assessment book! (Some call it workbook.. or activity book.. or whatever.. When I was young, we called them assessment books and assessment books they shall be.)

I am really glad that we have managed to incorporate this 20 minutes of reading into every morning. Seriously, I wouldn’t have thought that it was SO DIFFICULT to read books to the kids given that I spent the whole day with them! Granted, they definitely get their bedtime stories, but often that would be all in one whole day : /

Now, I would like to have at least ten minutes of sit-down play with the boys everyday. Ya, seatwork for mummy! Very difficult, because everytime I sit down, I would recall something else which I ‘need’ to do. Argh. Dunno whether it’s a good thing or bad thing that I am so task-oriented – If I can make this part of our routine, it will be so much easier to make it a good habit! No doubt that free play and independent play are important, but given that children learn so much via modeling, and the importance of intimate play, I must do this 10 Minutes!!!

And I am really sick of Maths. NOT gonna do another Maths assessment book on top of Kor Kor’s relentless 1000 questions a day.

It's meant for ages 3-4, so we are a bit late, but it looks fun!

It’s meant for ages 3-4, so we are a bit late, but it looks fun!


Please Don’t Test My Child

Recently I have noticed friends and relatives asking Kor Kor math questions. Perhaps they were curious whether he really could do addition, perhaps they didn’t believe what I wrote about in this blog or my facebook, perhaps they were just doing it for fun, perhaps perhaps. I know none of them meant any harm.

But, please don’t.

I don’t test my kids. I make a conscious effort not to test them. If they know something, we will find out sooner or later. If they don’t know, they are probably not ready yet.

If we test him and he gives the correct answer, how does it benefit him?

If we test him and he gives the wrong answer or can’t even come up with an answer, what do we say to him?

If we are nice and tell him ‘it’s ok’, why is it ok? How is it ok?

If we are not so nice and criticise him (why you got it wrong? why you don’t know? but I thought you knew?), how would he feel?

Perhaps he wouldn’t like math anymore. Perhaps he wouldn’t like ‘test questions’ anymore.  Perhaps he would lose some of the joy of learning. Perhaps he wouldn’t feel as confident anymore.

I would rather the child do the asking. I have no worries about getting the answers wrong anyway! When the adult does the answering instead of the testing, we have the opportunity to demonstrate problem solving. Or when we do get the answer wrong at times (carelessness? what is 299 x 3 anyway?!), we can demonstrate the right attitude in rectifying a mistake.

Furthermore, when the child does the asking, he does so when he is interested. If the adult does the asking, we might be intruding on another activity where he’s learning something unrelated to numbers. Interest = heightened capacity for learning!

If you happen to forget my request, please don’t be surprised/offended when I interrupt &/or distract my child and divert his attention to someone/something else 😛


How To Teach Maths: Addition and More!

Not everything can be learnt without teaching ok, haha. Though I do try to keep ‘lessons’ to a minimal, and always giving priority to free play and outdoor time. My earlier post on Kor Kor’s obsession with math operations might seem like there is nothing much the parents can do to ‘teach’. But yes, there is!

1. Provide a rich home environment. Not in terms of money, but a certain amount of investment is inevitable. Homemade learning aids are good too, but for someone like me with lousy art/craft skills, it’s probably gonna take more money to make my own.

I just leave these on the walls around the house, so that the kids will feel that Maths is just everywhere around them. But I don’t really talk about them, cos I don’t want to pressurize the kids.

2. A READY environment. I have had various manipulatives lying around the house since Kor Kor was very young. Though he did not know the correct way to use them, and it was a waste of my breath trying to show him how to use them when he was younger, at least he got used to the sight and feel of them. When he was ready to use them, they were not something new to him.

We also have Maths-related books aplenty. Read them to the kids at least once, and then the books are kept on the shelves for them to flip through on their own. They are free to choose any book for us to read during reading time.

Yes, it is possible to go buy manipulatives and books after the child exhibits an interest in them. But personally, I find that when I want/need to buy something, I won’t be able to find good ones. And when I don’t want/need to buy them, they keep popping up everywhere! So for basic stuff, I prefer to prepare in advance.

3. A READY teacher, i.e. the parents! When the child shows interest, we capitalize on it! I’m glad that Kor Kor’s interest coincided with my handsfree journey, otherwise I might have been too distracted and irritated to notice his interest and to answer his many questions. If I had not reinforced his curiosity and learning desire at the right time by being as enthusiastic as him, perhaps his interest would have suffered a premature demise.

These past days he has been asking me multiplication questions too. When he asked me ‘what is 16 x 18?’, my brain said I DON’T KNOW! But luckily, I did an e-brake and quickly calculated in my head and told him the answer. Because I wanted to demonstrate that it was NOT too difficult to do.

While I had previously simply told him the answers to his math questions, I have now started talking about the process too, aka brainwashing. So after answering ‘what is 7 + 8’, I say ‘Mummy thought about it and got the answer.’ This is to encourage him to do mental sums instead of relying on manipulatives. Given that he’s only four years old, I am of course happy to let him use manipulatives when he wishes to. There are no restrictions on that at all. But I do want him to feel that it’s a good thing to do mental sums, to prepare him for the future 😛

4. In the spirit of capitalizing his optimal learning period, and because I am a true blue Singaporean mum and a Tiger Mum in sheep’s clothing, I have started a daily ten-minute lesson. During this short lesson, I reveal my full tiger stripes and I get to choose what I want to do with him. And yes, it’s often assessment books! Only 10 minutes, so it should be ok I hope! Nevertheless I do not stress or rush him, and I set a timer to stop. I will be choosing topics that he is interested in. So far he has not shown any resistance and is always enthusiastic to start his lessons.

 5. The last point is the easiest, and also the most difficult. WAIT. No, it’s not an acronym for anything. It’s the easiest because we do not have to do anything special. It’s the most difficult because we often want to do more.

I really do think this is the most important of all. And it’s not because I am a nice, loving, academics-are-not-important, type of mum. I am a competitive, academic-focused, achievement-oriented type of mum. I don’t stress my kids only because I believe it has an adverse impact on their academic potential.

He did this all by himself without using any manipulatives. I have no idea whether his peers are already able to do this too, but the point is not whether he is more advanced than his peers. The point is he managed to learn this without going through formal or even structured lessons.


I knew his pencil grip was not correct and he couldn’t really write yet. So I offered him the option of using number stamps, which he happily accepted. A few days later, we happened to have a pencil around (he used it to draw lines to connect answers like the above photo), and I asked him whether he would like to write his answers instead. He replied, ‘But I don’t know how to.’

The thing is, if I had insisted he write his answers, he would not have been able to do this workbook at all. Handwriting is handwriting, maths is maths.


Not that I won’t grill him on handwriting. If he still can’t write by six years old, which is just two months before he starts Primary One, you can be sure I will grill him!

He has started asking me questions like ‘what is 4 + 4? What is 8 + 4? What is 12 + 4?’ I think he’s getting the idea of multiplication!

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Learning Without Teaching: Addition & More!

Recently, Kor Kor has been quite obsessed about Maths. Everyday he keeps asking ‘5 plus 2 equal what? 13 + 7 equal what? blah plus blah equal what?’

I have no idea what got into him suddenly!

After we told him the answers, he would check his addition book, which only gave the answers without any pictures. Sometimes he could also tell us the answers himself, but I suspect it’s probably from memory rather than understanding. I have no illusions that he’s doing mental sums! But children need to understand concrete before abstract!

Thus I introduced him to a set of Cuisenaire rods for early learners. Pretty soon, he was using it for all his addition questions.

Ants on a Log

At first, he would get mixed up. When he used a ‘7’ and a ‘1’ to get ‘8’, he would say “8 + 1 = 7?” And that got us started on subtraction – a very smooth and natural progression : )

Pretty soon he got the idea of ‘minus’ and started to ask many subtraction questions on top of the addition questions. Now the procedure is, use his cuisenaire rods to get the answer, then ask mummy or daddy “8 minus 7 equal 1?”, then after we answer in the affirmative, he checks his book. (OK, I guess he doesn’t know we are very good at addition and subtraction!)

The opportunity to introduce him to multiplication arose naturally when he started to ask ‘three plus three plus three equal what?’ (He was actually eating loveletters (kuih kapit, not the paper) and he asked for three each time.) At the third top-up of loveletters, I took out the bear counters and arranged them in three sets of three. Told him this was ‘three times three equals nine’. Didn’t explain further. I believe that by gently introducing him to new concepts over a long period of time (hey, we have more than six years from birth before he starts primary school! And hopefully a couple more years before he is tested on multiplication), he will be able to pick it up at his own pace. When he can understand, he will remember what I have been telling him and what he has been seeing (sets of bears!).

(By the way, I don’t like to use fingers for addition & subtraction. Only twenty fingers and toes in total, where got enough?! No point teaching hm this method when he can’t use it for long.)

This doesn’t mean he is already able to do maths now. But I am really pretty amazed at his sudden compulsion. Can’t help but think that children have their own timeline for learning. As it is the ‘right time’ for Kor Kor now, I can ride on his interest to teach him. Or rather, I am just answering his questions and providing him with the materials. There is no need for me to prepare lesson plans or for him to sit down to classroom-type lessons. (Not for now anyway :P)

Oh ya, we are also well on our way for division.

Kor Kor: “There are six cookies. So it’s three each for Didi and me.”

Me: “But mummy also wants to eat. How?”

Kor Kor: “Urmmm… OK, then we can have two cookies each!”

: )