The Trouble With Harvard

28 September 2014

A brilliant essay by the great Steven Pinker, which reignited the academics vs. “well-roundedness” debate in the US. For the record, I am firmly on Pinker’s side.


Learn to spell state capitals

26 September 2014

They are




Thank you.

Malaysian Computing Challenge 2014

25 September 2014

Official MCC 2014 website:





The Malaysian Computing Challenge (MCC) is an annual online competition designed for students (with no prior programming experience) to solve challenging computational problems.



MCC is brought to you by the Malaysian Informatics and Programming Society in collaboration with the Kulliyyah of ICT, International Islamic University Malaysia.



The MCC is the preliminary selection process of a year-long program to identify and train the top programming talents in Malaysian schools. Top scorers in MCC will be:

  1. Invited to a programming camp, tentatively to be held in December 2014.
  2. Upon successful completion of the camp, to be invited to the Malaysian Computing Olympiad (MCO), a real-time programming competition, to be held tentatively in April 2015.

The top scorers in MCO will be called for a series of intensive training camps conducted by experienced Olympiad participants. Students who qualify at this level will participate in Asia Pacific Informatics Olympiad (APIO), an annual online contest among countries in the Pacific Rim region. After the training camps and APIO, four students will be selected to represent Malaysia in International Olympiad in Informatics (IOI) 2015 which will take place in Kazakhstan on July 2015.



The MCC 2014 online competition will take place on 26-28 September 2014. Participants can submit their solutions anytime within these 3 days, starting from 12:01am on 26 September 2014 to 11:59pm on 28 September 2014.


In a few hours after I update this entry, the MCC 2014 will be live. I am very excited as this is the first time we are organizing an online programming-based contest (the MCC was paper-based in the last two years). Thanks to the MCC 2014 team — Shien Jin, Yi Hang, Sher Minn & Fu Yong — for your efforts to make this event happen.

To the participants: Good luck and happy coding!

Do you know?

25 September 2014



Further updates

22 September 2014

Now that my blog has been totally ignored for more than 4 months, I had just now taken the time to update the pages:

  • The IMO page has now been updated to 2015, with full report of the 2014 events.
  • Similarly for the IOI and KMC.
  • Under Courses, I have updated the info on the upcoming Math Olympiad Prep Course in December.
  • Much of the spam comments have been deleted.

My new book is coming out at the end of this month (it is being printed already). It is the Volume 2 of my MRSM Mathematical Olympiad series. Where else would be more suitable to launch the book than the actual MRSM Mathematical Olympiad itself, which will take place for 4 days starting 30 September at MRSM Kuala Krai, Kelantan. After the event, the book will be available for purchase. We will update our online catalog / order form.

My new project is a nationwide teachers’ workshop on Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) in Mathematics. Under the latest education blueprint (Pelan Pembangunan Pendidikan Malaysia 2013-2025), the government is pushing schools to set more questions that tests HOTS in exam papers, with the goal, by next year, to have more than half of the problems in the standardized exams being HOTS problems.

Expectedly, teachers are having problems with this new push, as they are themselves unclear about what HOTS is & supposed to be, and insufficient training are being given to explain the Whats (definition and approach of HOTS) and Hows (how to set HOTS problems). There are course materials on the ministry website, but those are catered more towards to highbrow pedagogy experts in the ivory tower, not the teachers who conduct day-to-day teaching in our schools.

I have come up with a simple methodology for Math teachers to set HOTS problems which are perfectly mapped to the Malaysian mathematics school syllabus, but at the same time challenges students’ HOTS rather than memorizing and regurgitating skills. I had done several presentations to state education departments and they all seem receptive to the idea. We are doing some pilot projects in several selected states this year. I will give more updates about this project in the future.

My method consists of 15 “tools” to upgrade normal math problems into HOTS problems. Some of the tools are standard and are often used as examples when talking about HOTS, and some of the tools are borrowed from the world of competitive mathematics. I was involved in math olympiad for close to 20 years, and my wide experience as problem-setter and trainer gives me some insights into how a normal math problems can be HOTS-ified to challenge students’ thinking rather than their calculating skills.

Ultimately, developing HOTS for students depends a lot on the teachers’ ability and willingness to adapt a new paradigm for teaching. It is hard to let go of normal behaviour after teaching for decades using the same methodology. The “old school” method has run its course; it is time to give it a well-deserve rest. We should focus our efforts not to make our students A-chasers, but make them thinkers who can process new ideas and come up with novel ways to solve problems. Then only will our full educational potential be unleashed, and then perhaps, our education system can really be world-class.

I’m back — for the Nth time

19 September 2014

Hello all,

Things are going well, perhaps too well, on my side, that blogging on this site had to be relegated to the bottom of my priority stack.

Thanks to encouragements from my wife, and various other people, who wish for me to write again — here I am.

I will try to make regular updates from now on (I know, this is a repeating theme in the last few updates), hopefully this time for real. But let me qualify at the outset: regular means whatever frequency that my schedule permits.


Some news since the last update:

1. The IMO team did very well in IMO 2014 that took place last July at Cape Town, S. Africa.

Here is Malaysia at IMO 2014:

Congrats to Justin & Anzo for a well-deserved Gold Medal after 4 tries at the IMO. You guys can retire with your head high. To Yi Kye, well done; 2 medals in 2 tries. To Zi Song, great job being one of the youngest medallists in IMO history. To Shazryl & Kin Aun, worthy performance to round up a very successful year for Malaysia in the International Olympiads. Many thanks to Pusat PERMATApintar Negara (esp. Prof. Noriah and Dr. Sakinah), PERSAMA (Prof. Arsmah & gang), KPM (Pn. Zalina & gang), ExxonMobil (Pn. Ida & gang) and other well-wishers for your relentless support. To my deputy Iqbal, couldn’t ask for a better sidekick.

We rank 23rd in the world (out of 100+ countries) based on total scores. Based on medal tally, the way countries are ranked at the Olympic Games, we rank 12th.

Lots of coverage in the news this year.

The Star:



The Heat did a profile on the medallists:

photo 1

photo 2

(thanks to Mr Yeoh who kept up with all the media coverage)

Congrats to the winners for the other Olympiads as well — Chemistry, Physics and Informatics. You make the country proud.

2. The Kangaroo Math Competition 2014 has closed its curtain successfully with 5 award ceremonies around the country. Thanks in particular to our friends in Borneo for making our first ceremony in Kuching a success. The only backlog is sending out the medals for those absent from the ceremony — this we will complete next week, Insha Allah.

Looking forward to the KMC 2015!

Registration will be open November 2014.

Sincere thanks to the whole KMC team for your awesome commitment and cheery attitude. Working with you guys is like, in the words of Warren Buffett, skipping to work every day.

3. We are also launching a new contest on informatics (a.k.a computer science) called Beaver Informatics Competition. Get to know the Beaver here:

Thanks Sher Minn for designing the page, and also helping with setting up the contest, to be held next year. Co-director Khairul (a.k.a. Bird) is instrumental in getting things done on the technical side. Thanks.

4. Hari Raya went well. First time berHari Raya with a wife, what a pleasant feeling. As you get older, Raya gets more and more meaningful and becomes less and less about the tradition, although I hope the Raya tradition (the Malay one, that is) remains in our culture for a long long time. I just love being with family and extended family and neighbors and chatting and feasting with them.

Asking forgiveness from each other keeps society sane.

5. I went to Lithuania and South Africa, adding two more to the list of countries I’ve been to. Too bad, the list (currently at 70+) will likely not grow much in the future since I have developed a fear of flying. I am trying to avoid international travel as much as possible. Even traveling to and from Borneo is kind of a drag — I experienced a brickbat type of turbulence during a recent Kuching-KL flight, and almost peed in my pants. The only flights I can tolerate are short-haul Firefly flights between Subang and Kota Baru, Penang, Kuala Terengganu and JB. Even then, I’d rather not fly to the East Coast during monsoon season, I would rather take the bus. I am a pussy, I know.

The MHs in the news are not helping.


That is all for now. Many things are going on, but I will keep those for another day and another entry.

In the meantime, a short notice:

Aidan Group is organizing our annual Open House luncheon tomorrow (Saturday, 20 September) from 1 to 5pm. Venue: Aidan office at 100-1 Jalan 2/23A, off Jalan Genting Klang, Setapak. Look for the black Aidan signboard. We are near Petronas and Shell on Jalan Genting Klang.

Everyone is invited! Kambing golek ada.

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