Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Problem Solving Maths with the Essential Know How and Tools

Mathematics has always been my favourite subject when I was still in school.  It still is actually.  But as I grew older, I "returned" many of what I had learnt to the teacher, a.k.a forgotten everything.  Common?  I guess when I was younger, I was simply trying to learn what I can in order to pass the examinations.  When asked about a certain way of solving a Maths problem then, it's probably all about "Because Mummy / Daddy says to do it this way." or "Because Teacher XXX says use this method.", without really understanding why.

Now, as a parent of a Primary 2 child, I seem to be going back to school once again.  That addition and subtraction format, the reading of the weighing scale, and of course, the problem sums.  D, the P2 boy, has never attended any mathematics enrichment classes or tuition classes as this mummy here believes in helping him as much as I can, on my own.  This also mean that I have to constantly be in tune with the education system.

When Marshall Canvendish Education ("MCE") invited me for it's Heuristics workshop, I jumped at that opportunity.  I have heard so much about MCE's workshops from friends and I knew this was going to be an eye-opener.


Firstly, heuristics - I was already stumped by this word.  Sounded profound but it actually isn't that bad.  Layman terms: problem-solving.  

Secondly and most importantly, I knew the syllabus has changed (as compared to my school days).  I knew too that there are definitely a lot more methods when solving word problems that I never knew of.

If you do not know, the Mathematical Processes consists of two parts: Thinking Skills (Know How) and Heuristics (Tools)

Thinking Skills
Anaylzing parts and whole
Identifying patterns and relations
Spatial visualization

Use a diagram / model
Make a systematic list
Look for patterns
Work backwards
Use before-after concept
Use guess and check

In all word problems, we need both the tools and the know-how.  Missing either one, we will not be able to understand the problems.  From Primary 1, children are taught to use diagrams / models to solve their word problems.  They start from easy models, cultivating this habit of drawing models as this will help them visualise situations and Maths problems as they grow older and advance to the next level.

I vaguely remember about having learnt and used model drawing in school, using "units" when solving Maths problems.  While at the workshop, I could still do some of the Maths problems, although my model drawings were not the best visual representations.  This is exactly what Ms. Peggy mentioned about learning to use models to help with Maths problems instead of using memorisation.  With the use of models, it helps clarify the problems and also to allow us, the problem solvers to interpret them correctly.  It is all about understanding and comprehending the questions.

Though it was a 9am to 3.30pm workshop, there was never a dull moment.  I know of people who complain about workshops being monotonous, listening-and-copying-notes-only, but our trainer, Ms. Peggy Foo is brilliant.  Every participant had a chance to participate and the class (less than 20 participants) was lively with interactions and hands-on practices.

Apart from learning about model drawing, guess and check and other heuristics, a big takeaway was about how to help a child by identifying and analysing his / her learning difficulties.  I do not want the boys to rely on memorisation and forcing them to do practice papers after practice papers.  Thus, I view this as something crucial in their learning journey and I would like to assist them as we tackle the primary school years.

I would say it was a great 6 hour spent, as I leave the workshop understanding more about heuristics and how I am able to better help my children with their Maths problems in the near future.  Sounding like a broken recorder, but it's really about being involved with the children's studies and not feel helpless when they ask for help.  Definitely not because I am a tiger mum or a kiasu mum because you know I am not.  :)

You may wish to click here and here to have some understanding on heuristics and the model method.  As humans learn better with hands-on examples, coupled with explanations from someone with experience a.k.a. a trainer, you should consider attending the many Parent Workshops that Marshall Cavendish Education organises.  Almost everything from English to Maths.  Chinese too.

With the June school holidays here and soon over, parents with PSLE children will definitely benefit from MCE's Parent Seminars or Student Workshops.

There is an upcoming non-PSLE workshop, Problem-Solving with Bar Models (Upper Primary) happening on 10 June 2017 and I am pleased to inform that MCE has offered a 50% discount to one of our readers.  

To be lucky winner to pay only $42.50 (usual cost $85) for an almost 6 hour workshop, here are the steps to enter:

1. Be a B.C.D.E. That's US Facebook page fan.

2. Be a Marshall Cavendish Education page fan.

3. Like and share the corresponding Facebook post (your post must be made PUBLIC for me to see it).

Giveaway ends 5 June 2017, 11.59pm.

Please note:

- Winner will be chosen at random.

- Tickets are not exchangeable for cash and are not transferable.

- Prize will be given out by sponsor.

- Winners will be announced on blog, Facebook and notified by email.  Please respond within 24 hours, failing which, a new winner will be chosen. 

- The giveaway is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.

Good luck!

At the beginning of the post, I mention about reading much about MCE's workshops.  Depending on which school level your child is in, you may in interested in reading the experiences from my mummy blogger friends and I am sure, you will gain more insights, just like I did.

Mummy Ed - Stretching Your Child’s Mathematical Abilities – Marshall Cavendish Education Workshop 2017

Mummy Serene - Marshall Cavendish Education - P3 & P4 Maths Coaching Workshop

Mummy Christy - PSLE Student English Workshop by Marshall Cavendish Education & PSLE English Workshop for Parents – How to Tackle The English Paper

Last but not least, read Mummy Jennifer's thoughts and experiences here.  Though we attended the same Heuristics workshop, you can tell that every individual has their own thoughts and views.  No doubt it's all positive experiences!

Disclosure: I was invited to the workshop by Marshall Cavendish Education.  No monetary compensation was received.  All photos and opinions are true to my own unless otherwise stated.

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Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Song-Cho Rice Cookers - Why It is One of a Kind!

April and May have been eventful, both on home front, but also on the work front for me.  Yes, if you do not know, I am a full time working mother.  And I get people asking how I juggle, without any external help, i.e. helper or maid.  Well, my children are in full time day care and I have a pretty hands-on hubby, so I am really not that super.  I place priorities on different things - my house is always messy, my laundry basket is always full and so on, thus, I am not that overwhelmed on a daily basis.

But one thing for sure.  I try to cook as much as I can, although I know how we mothers feel after a long and tiring work day.  Which is why I rely a lot on kitchen gadgets.  And one such gadget is the rice cooker.

One may say that a rice cooker is just a rice cooker, why and how can any be so special?  I agree that the rice cookers in the market now are features-packed.  Apart from cooking rice, they can be used to steam and bake too.

But the rice cooker I am using now is different because of a very important component.  Its stainless steel inner pot!

Those who personally know me knows I am very particular over certain things, especially when it comes to feeding the children and things for the children.  Through reading and researching, it seems that we should just go back to basics, and that is using stainless steel for cooking.  I have had non-stick, teflon coated inner pots and pans and I get upset each time I see the peeled coatings.

I shall be very bias here as to why Song-Cho rice cookers then?  It is because they are the only rice cookers makers with stainless steel inner pots.  Totally what I am looking for.  Apart from the fact that it is made from food grade stainless steel, there is also no chemical coatings, thus making it perfect for use in cooking.  Plus, many I know often change their inner pots.  This, I think will last quite a long time.

For an idea of why I so much prefer a Song-Cho rice cooker with it's premium inner pot, this visual description explains everything.

Credit : Song-Cho (Imp & Exp) Pte Ltd 

One of the newer range of rice cookers, the SC-FCM58 model has 12 different modes of cooking.  But seriously, cooking rice and porridge are my favourite because a rice cooker is a rice cooker!  For the different ranges of rice cookers Song-Cho carries, click here!

My boys love the porridge cooked using the rice cooker.  Me too!  No longer do I need to stand by the stove, stirring the grains, hoping it will not get burnt.  Using the Porridge function, I get "sticky" porridge which my boys love in just an hour.  Tell me about achieving more in an hour.  The porridge is good for toddlers too!

Due to it's superiority in heat conductivity, one-pot rice cooker claypot chicken rice is easy.

By using the Reheat mode, I stir fried the ginger in the rice cooker itself with a little sesame oil, and added in bacon as I did not have Chinese sausage.  Thereafter, I put in the mushrooms.  It is quite uncommon to see ginger and bacon in our traditional claypot rice but we realise that with ginger, it makes the rice more fragrant.  Bacon was an adventure test that I did and interestingly, it adds a tinge of "saltiness" a.k.a the giam giam (Hokkien) at every bite.

Closed the lid to let it heat up and mixed in the chicken slices and rice after that.

Once mixed and water added, I closed the lid and started the cooking process by pressing the Start button after choosing the Crust mode. 

The see through glass cover will be useful especially when the bake or soup mode is used.  Don't you love it when you can see the food you are cooking when it is almost done?  I thought it was really cool as I love peering at my food.

So, here's my kind of one-pot rice cooker claypot rice.  I used to fry the items at the stove before putting them into the rice cooker but with this rice cooker, it's everything one-pot.  Totally for strapped-for-time-yet-want-variety parents like me.

One-Pot Rice Cooker Claypot Rice


1 chicken breast - cut into small chunks
3 dried Chinese mushrooms - soaked and sliced
1 Chinese sausage, or a slice of bacon  - sliced
Garlic and ginger - chopped and sliced thinly respectively
2 cups of rice

1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp dark soya sauce
2 tbsp oyster sauce


1. Marinate the chicken with the items under "marinate".
2. Using Reheat mode, stir fry ginger and garlic with a little of sesame oil in dry inner pot.
3. Add in Chinese sausage or bacon and stir fry till fragrant.
4. Add in Chinese mushrooms.  Close the lid to heat it up slightly.
5. Add in chicken slices and stir fry till chicken is partially cooked before adding in the rice.  Mix it well.
6.  Using the measuring cup, add in 2 cups of water.   (This is for white rice.  For other rice, add in the appropriate amount of water for the different rice types.)
7. Cancel the Reheat mode and press start for the Cook mode.
8. When the rice cooker beeps, the claypot rice is ready!  Drizzle more dark soya sauce if preferred and enjoy!

Disclosure: We were given the Song-Cho Rice Cooker for product review purposes.  No monetary compensation was received.  All photos and opinions are true to my own unless otherwise stated.

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Friday, 19 May 2017

Food Labels... Do You Ever Read Them?

Many years ago...

Holding a packet of food in my hand at the supermarket and scrutinising it, B asked, "What are you looking at?"

"Labels!"  I replied.  He looked at me, bewildered.

Fast forward to today, both of us look at food labels.  And here we are, trying to teach the boys, especially the older one to do it too.

Yes, I am a control freak with certain stuff, in some sense.

I love reading food labels.  Standing along the aisle of supermarkets while shopping (now you know why I adore supermarkets and can spend lots of time there), I read the food labels of food that I am intending to buy.  Sometimes I am convinced to buy them.  Sometimes I put them back.

In Singapore, we actually have a pretty transparent system on food labelling.  I have no idea about other countries but I suppose most developed countries will probably have a similar system (don't quote me for that though!).

The labelling guidelines is governed by the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) and so much information can be found here.

If you do not know, all pre-packed food products for sale in Singapore must be labelled according to the general labelling requirements of the Singapore Food Regulations.  Based on my few years of limited knowledge and research, here's what I know in layman terms:

Food for sale in Singapore must be labelled with basic information such as name of food, ingredients, net content and source.  I guess we all know about the source information as I know many who check on where the food item is made in or manufactured in.

Two things that I often look at but many do not know are as follows:

1. The ingredients and additives used in all food products must be listed in descending order of the proportions by weight in which they are present.

2.  If nutrition claims or permitted health claims are made for pre-packed foods, nutrition labelling is required.  Information declared in the panel must include the energy, protein, fat and carbohydrate contents of the food.  Nutrients must be declared too.

Taking the following as an example, we all can know then what are the main ingredients.

I get very concerned with food labels because I am interested to know what goes into the food that I am buying and what I am eating or feeding my family.  Many times, we realise that the first ingredient in a pre-packed food is sugar.  And we know how much harm too much sugar can cause.

Apart from looking at the ingredient list, we particularly look at the "sugars" content shown in the nutrition information.  Probably it is difficult to visualise the amount of sugars in grams but when it is converted to the number of teaspoons, it is easily understood.  Let me tell you that for the amount of sugars in grams you see stated, divide it by 4.  That's the number of teaspoons of sugar.  And yes, I can see that jaw dropped.

Now, I am not a dietician or a nutritionist.  Not any expert, really.  Just an individual who takes an interest into such.  But when I see a drink marketed as a healthy drink as follows, I get kind of upset.  Sugar as the number 1 ingredient.  Wow.  

My boys and I take sweets and chocolates too and I am not trying to present ourselves as "only eating the healthy stuff" family, but at least, again, I know what I am feeding the family.  And really, it is through being aware that we try to make little changes to our lifestyle, hopefully for the better.

Disclosure: Again, I am not a doctor, nutritionist, dietician or any professional related to  this field.  What is stated are my personal opinions.  I agree to disagree.  :)

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