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.