on Wednesday, 18 April 2012
Professional Teaching Standard (PTS) is actually a main reference for teachers and generally explains what a teacher can do and provides a structured path to support the development of teachers. So here are the six main issues relating to this topic:
  • discipline
  • readiness in facing changes and challenges
  • teacher teaching a subject that is not their option
  • teacher still using traditional 
  • teaching as their last resort
  • school vs tuition
Now, the first issue teacher's discipline. Teacher's discipline is very important because they are the role model for their students. Schools tend to set strict rules and regulations for students for example be punctual, do not litter around the school, do not step on certain green grassy area and so on. As teacher, they should follow suit too. However imagine if a teacher constantly come late to school, enter class late, yawn in class, throwing emotions regularly and blaming student with illogical reasons... how will the students think of them... gradually students will follow these teachers footstep and lose respect towards these kind of teachers. Hence teachers should be more responsible, control their emotions remind themselves that they too are not above the rules set by headmaster even though some are merely additional rules. 

Second issue is readiness of teacher in facing changes and challenges. Looking back at ancient times where technology is still new, and computer is not something common or affordable, teachers tend to use cardboard, manila paper, but mostly will stick to whiteboard approach or what we now call it as "chalk and talk" method. So the current trend should be technology-based teaching. However, most teachers still sticking with chalk and talk method, this shows that most teachers are not ready to face changes. This is in fact an important issue as the trend of students are mostly involve with technology such as computers, laptops, i-phone, any new gadgets arise they will explore it. So how can teachers motivate and inspire them if they themselves are not ready to flow along that trend let alone teach them. Besides that, teachers are assign with tonnes of paper work and of course, manage at least a club or uniform body or anything at all. Is definitely not easy, but for example a teacher is only interested in football. So what happens when he/she is assign to manage a badminton club? with little knowledge in that field still he/she must do it. Hence it is advisable that teachers attend course in how to manage an organization, with these they can definitely manage a club, then hire outsiders who are professional in taking over coaching duties.

Third issue, teacher teaching something that is not their option. Well to us, this is without a shadow of a doubt a major issue that needs to be address as soon as possible. Logically thinking, how can these teachers motivate and inspire their students let alone teach, when they don't even know what they are doing is like instructing a national football player to play in a national tournament for badminton, and these chosen players are suppose to inspire the whole nation. So, the statistics department have a major role in solving this issue. An important note here is that if a teacher is teaching a subject "A" that is not his/her option, should he/she fill up the statistics form saying that she is A subject teacher or instead the other way round.     

Fourth issue, teaching still using traditional method of teaching, well you guys might wanna review back paragraph containing second issue.

Fifth issue,  teaching career as their last resort. Again, you cannot do well in something that you don't like or enjoy doing it. You will feel "burn out" after a short period of time, low in confidence, miserable... Thinking back, nowadays, after secondary school students graduated from their respective schools, some tend to come back and serve the school. Their motives are good and we are not questioning it, but without proper training, are they eligible to teach at all. Some schools even let these "former students" take over the entire role of the teacher on leave (such as maternity leave in which these leave is quite a long period). Indirectly, society will see it as teaching is a very easy profession, with inadequate knowledge or even knowledge equivalent to form 5 or 6 will be able to teach. Seriously, is that true? According to my teacher, qualified teacher that is, even a daily lesson plan require a day or two to do it (to perfection as her lesson is truly beneficial yet fun), well what can we say then...  

Sixth issue, school vs tuition (beware this is not fighting game, joking). Shop lots in housing area will have at least three tuition centers, in town or city centers a tuition center can be as large as a few floors or even two blocks of office building. Question here is why the need for tuition when schools provide cheaper education? Let us compare, schools are equip with classrooms (some with ceiling fans while some are air-conditioned), laboratories (science and computer), arts room, canteen, ... while tuition center provide classrooms that are air conditioned, ... what else more... Weird. The truth is through tuition, students are more expose to doing exercise be familiar with the "common question". In short this might be due to our too exam-oriented style of education. This indirectly causes students (more importantly parents) to shift their focus to theory based-learning or even exercise-based learning and they score well in exams! School is actually providing a more all rounded education from theory to practical and even surviving skills.  
In this column, we as the group that will be presenting "Mathematics Anxiety" have some wonderful websites for you guys to try it out. Before that, let us explain why these websites are chosen. Our topic, Mathematics Anxiety, what can we say (since we will explain more in our report and presentation, hence we will just give the readers a brief description here) is that people especially students that feel tension, fear, and low in confidence when they face mathematics and this situation can start from any time even when a person is only standard one, or during secondary school or even when they are older. This is more psychology effect. Some called it as dyscalculia disease. So, our main concern here is students (more specific, secondary students). Game time.

Looking at the website link with the word mathplayground says it all. We recommend two further links from this very website that is http://www.mathplayground.com/PartyDesigner/PartyDesigner.html . This game is all about area and perimeter. So what kind of game it is? Is like you are organizing a party and how are you going to decorate the floor, talking about floor and yeah this game is about how you utilize the AREA and PERIMETER of the floor to design your party, and how can you feel ANXIOUS about party! Second link is http://www.mathplayground.com/SaveTheZogs/SaveTheZogs.html . Beware, those who enjoy alien movies such as "Battleship" will enjoy it! Why? Because it is the player using linear equation knowledge to save the aliens that known as zogs.

Second web that we chose is BBC site known as Skillwise+Maths. The link here is for the topic fraction,
  http://www.bbc.co.uk/skillswise/game/ma17frac-game-dolphin-racing-fractions . This is a dolphin racing game, in which the player must chose the largest fraction (out of four fractions available) to travel the furthest distance, recommended for readers who are F1 crazy. The second link from this website that we recommend is for the topic percentage, http://www.bbc.co.uk/skillswise/game/ma16perc-game-percentages-of-something . One of the content is pizza, so please fill up your stomach before you play.

Third web is BBC education with the link here http://www.bbc.co.uk/education/mathsfile/shockwave/games/fish.html . The topic for this game is probability. Recommended for fish lovers though. Just a reminder that this may be also from BBC website but in a way is not the same as this is BBC education while the second website is BBC Skillwise+Maths. 

The fourth web site is Purposegames.com and the link is here http://www.purposegames.com/games/?t=1671&so=mp . This web contain mainly of trigonometry games. Scared... please don't be scared, is fun! Try and you will see the difference.

One may wonder why these topics are chosen, ok let us explain. The topics covered here are area and perimeter, linear equation, fraction, percentage, probability and trigonometry. Some may say that area and perimeter, fraction and percentage might be easy. Again let us remind the readers that our main topic is Mathematics Anxiety, meaning these recreation games are mean to help people with anxiety and these are people that will have dificulty in learning mathematics even though in a lot of people mind, these are simple topics. In fact these are topics covered in Form 1 and 2, so what better way to help curb anxiety than to start from the beginning. Where else for the other three topics (linear equation, probability and trigonometry), well is tough alright, so relax your mind and enjoy the game.
on Monday, 9 April 2012
Trend In International Mathematics And Science Study (TIMSS) is an international assessment for mathematics and science knowledge. It is managed by National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). The purpose of TIMSS is to measure the achievement of students through the research on the various methods used in a national system. So, what do they assess on TIMSS? Content and Cognitive domain.Cognitive domain here includes knowledge (facts, information, concepts, apparatus and procedure that a student needs to know), application (ability of students to apply their knowledge and understanding of concept into solving problems) and analysis (beyond the cognitive process in solving daily problems that are more complex).

Ok, now we are going straight to TIMSS 1999 where Malaysia started participated. Malaysia was 16 (for mathematics) and 22 (for science) out of 38 countries that participated. So here are a few interesting issues that arise from TIMSS 1999 (for Malaysia that is):
  1. Different in achievements between urban schools and rural schools
  2. Language factor
  3. Size of class
  4. Self concept
Different in achievements between urban and rural schools
This is somehow expected isn't it. In urban area, no matter how far a school is, for convenient purpose lets take KL for example, there are trains (KTM commuter, LRT, monoreal), rapid buses all over the city, taxis, and even school buses. In school they are equip with the latest gadget in technologies such as computer lab with internet access, comfortable classrooms with at least three ceiling fans (not to mention air-conditional classroom) and so on. Now take a look at rural school, take for example Sabah rural places, you might not believe this but some students travel to school using boat that it requires them to start traveling as early as five in the morning, as this is the only transportation available to take them there, then how about when the weather is unsuitable for boat transport, they will just have to skip school. People wonder why not register them to a nearer school, because that is the nearest school available to them. If just to travel there is that difficult, wonder how are people going to transport furniture, technologies such as computer there? That is why a lot of rural schools are not well equip with modern technologies even some basic needs such as clean water. They used whatever available to them to built a simple structure that can be called as school. All these limit teacher's teaching method.

Language Factor  
Well, bahasa Melayu is our official language and mathematics and science were taught in Bahasa Melayu during this period hence not many issues arise from this angle as bahasa Melayu was implemented in teaching mathematics and science for some time.

Size of class
People often say that students must pay attention in class or to what the teacher is teaching, well the same can be said from the opposite, that is attention given on the students is extremely important in guiding a student. So how do we accomplish that, that is by reducing the size of class to a maximum of 25 students per class. Given that the growth rate in Malaysia is ever increasing, this task is becoming more difficult. For that problem, we are not going in details about it as we believe the relevant authorities are already looking into it. So why attention is important? From here if teachers pay the necessary attention towards their student (which is of course must be manageable amount) they will know how to help a student, from what angle is the student facing difficulties. This will indirectly causes the students to have confidence in their teacher, they know who to turn to beside than their family members, the teacher can gain their trust, motivates and guide them towards a better path, and helps them academically.

First of all, what do the title means? Self-concept here means that students are able to confidently state a concept. Well, just go into a class and randomly ask a student any basic concept, can they answer it? Well since TIMSS suggests that it is something we need to look into will indirectly give you a clue what the student will answer. This might be due to our exam oriented format, because students tend to "vomit back" what they have just learned, which suggests that they are MEMORIZING. How can they confidently state out a concept if they are just memorizing, let alone understanding it. Yet how to solve a problem by not understanding it? This we believe should be discuss more in teacher's method in teaching segment. Anyway, this at least is something that we need to aware of.

TIMSS (2003)
Malaysia recorded an improve result that as compare to TIMSS 1999 as they ranked tenth in TIMSS 2003. However, there are a few issues that needed to be address as overall it is still unsatisfactory:
  1.  Teaching method
  2. Interest in mathematics
  3. Weak learning technique among students
Teaching method

Interest in Mathematics
Erm... this is actually largely due to teacher factor (their teaching method) and some are well of course natural talent or interest (rare case though, so we are not going into it, some more when they have natural interest, is actually easier to guide and motivate them). Ok, so how is it possible? Remember that we state about each student is unique in his or her own way, well if we can actually use that unique way to teach them, of course the possibility of them learning and understanding the topic is very high, and how can you not has an interest in it if you are doing well and excelling in that subject. This further strengthen the statement that various teaching methods are important.   

Weak learning technique among students
Learning mathematics is not same as learning other subjects. take for example you cannot read a mathematics textbook like how you read a novel, it is totally different. In schools, teachers tend to teach student how to calculate or use a formula, however this is largely opposite of the content of textbook. In textbook, it will relate a topic to a daily or relevant application, then slowly guide the students how the formula comes about. Not so with teachers though, as straight away they will guide students how to use the formula without relating it to any application at all. In short students need to memorize formula. So all these create confusions among students even though textbook itself is in some way sufficient, but in order to understand it's content, one need to truly imagine what it is trying to convey to its readers, then there are the language barrier and level of difficulty of the language used (for example you cannot let a boy read a university book if he is just 10 years old (ok, bar wonder or miracle boy). 

TIMSS 2007
In this edition, Malaysia recorded the biggest drop among all the countries participated. Hence...

What is PPSMI? PPSMI stands for Pengajaran Pendidikan Sains Dan Matematik Dalam Bahasa Inggeris. This creates an uproar from many people including teachers for its sudden introduction. While it was implemented, many were not exactly clear of it (such as the guidelines). Even teachers were not given proper training. However, the true problem actually lies on its implementation. Looking back, it was implemented drastically without any clear guidelines. Take for example it was also implemented not only for standard one but also form one, this is such a significant change. Students which are weak in English language will face further problems even mentally, but who can they ask for help from when our teachers were not fully prepared themselves. In the end, who are to be blame for this failure, is it really the students poor achievement as indicated through TIMSS?
on Sunday, 8 April 2012
As a teacher, students achievement is very important in judging a teacher's performances. However, talking about performance, we must also take into account how is these students being tested, is it more exam-orientated, more hands-on approach, or more of a balanced type? We will focus more regarding this in the coming weeks (until that very group that suppose to present this topic that is.)

So now, our focus will be on these SIX issues:
  1. Social economy Status
  2. Influence of friends
  3. Gender
  4. School factor
  5. Language used
  6. And of course, teacher themselves.
Social Economy
Ok, now let us go to the first issue, that is social economy status of the student. When we mention social economy, straight away most people will link it with their parents (in case any of the readers is confuse, I am talking about students of course). "What are their occupations?" Yup that will mostly be the first question being asked or at least comes into mind. From here, people will have a bias opinions regarding their characteristics, income, education background, and stability of the family.  

Parents with good occupation usually come from good educational background, that is how they manage to get into the position they are now, with that comes a good or stable income in which is important to have a stable family. A stable family can supply their children with equipments that are necessary in today's education world, for example reference book (why? because even teachers use reference book as their main source more than textbook, which means even students which are supply with free textbooks might need to buy at least ONE reference book for EACH subject), computer or even laptop (nowadays, schools even offers a subject call ICT sums it up- the important of technology and skills in using it), internet (well what can I say a lazy but effective way to cure our curiosity as compare to books, knowledge at your fingertips, huh...), stationary such as pen, and so many more, don't even let me get started on basic necessities such as food. All these involve money, how these children are going to be satisfied let alone LEARN COMFORTABLY if their parents cannot afford to? In which if this is the case, they are forced to work. How cruel, but yes their entertainment, their suppose-to-be childhood time is being robbed from them. So, how can a child in this situation can understand the importance of education when he or she is already fighting just to survive? Hence this is a big factor and issue that teachers should be aware of. Now, students are sometimes judge due to their behaviour, but where do they learn all these behaviour from? Most probably their parents. If their parent are those foul-mouth type, then it is very likely that their children will follow as they see it as normal and nothing unusual since they hear it everyday from their parents.

Influence of friends
Friends play an important role in our life. When we are young it is our parents and family members that we are close to, but when we enter standard one, we spend more than five hours in school and this period increases as we tend to be more active school co-curriculum. So who are the ones most probably we spend our time with? There are only two possibilities which are teachers and friends. Still many prefer friends because they are same in age (or almost identical in age for seniors and juniors). There will be curiosity in which they feel they are more comfortable in sharing with their friends compare to teachers and family members. So, when these friends are the type that are lazy, poor in attitude, very likely they will influence people, but at the same time these lazy and poor in attitude children can also be influence by others in becoming better.

Ermm..., the ability of male and female is always question by many... but are there any significant qualities? The recent results regarding the PMR and SPM suggest that females are leading males. Just look at the students studying in higher learning institute will suggest to you that females are indeed overpowering males in education. How bias... Why... Firstly, let us look at the number of female teachers in a school as compare to male teachers. Just a quick survey even at your nearest school will suggest that female teachers are INDEED MORE THAN male teachers. So, some interesting issues pop-ed out in our recent discussion, are these female teachers female-bias, meaning they are more comfortable around with female students as compare to male students? If so, how they are coping with the male students let alone teach them, guide them. Sooner or later, male students will get the impression that since they are not given enough attention, and having difficulty in their academics but yet feeling guilty in approaching the relevant parties for help (that is teacher), they might as well just sail through the entire process without really trying or being motivated to truly overcome these difficulties. Secondly, again as in the introductory segment, how do our children are being tested, some are good in theories, while some are better in hands-on, and the list is endless, but how are they tested? Is it a well balanced test? Can these results testified that female students are really overpowering male students academically? Thirdly, there exists a rumor saying that female students cannot cope with male students especially in subjects such as Additional Mathematics, Mathematics and Physics (well since this blog touches mainly on Mathematics, so no offense to female readers... I am sure boys are so called weak in other subjects too... just a joke!), but how true are all these? There are multiple research that have been done regarding this issue in overseas but so far the percentage significant is rather small and even negligible.

A school is where children or students gain sufficient skills and knowledge to adapt to the ever changing world. Hence a school is a very important place, and not for parents to dump their children there and that's it. Responsible readers will be confused by my previous sentence, but yeah that is what many parents are doing. That is why there exist an association called PIBG where parents need to play their part even in school and not only to let the responsibility be shouldered by teachers only. Let us start this issue from the teachers perspective (mind you I will not touch this issue regarding teachers in detail as in the coming weeks there will be more issues that are teacher related will definitely pop up), each and every students are unique in their own way, this imply to how they can effectively learn something (again some are good theoretically, while some are better in hands-on and the list is endless...). So what should a teacher do? What we witness is still the usual chalk and talk method, don't get me wrong I am not saying that this is not an effective method but rather with so many new technologies at our disposal, why not try out something new. Even a simple model such as setting up a pyramid or square by using cardboard is a good way to inspire our students. This is especially true for subjects that are known as applied mathematics such as Physics. Physics teachers cannot use only textbook or even reference book to teach their students, but must at least do some demonstrations or practical work in order to let their students see their application and thus somehow relate to the real world. Then, not to let their students memorize formulas but guide them how all these formulas they are using come from (this itself is one form of way to let the students see the application of it). Then this is follow by school surroundings. Imagine schools with broken windows, unclean toilets, unorganized tables and chairs in the classroom, poor facilities in laboratory, no greenery, smelly canteen, ... do you as a reader even consider spending a minute there. Then how about the students, which spend at least five hours in that filthy environment! Yet we still blame our children that they do not give their full commitment when they do badly in their exams, but is it really their fault or the one who is suppose to in-charge school cleanliness to blame? This indirectly lead us to the one that assume the highest leadership post in the school, headmaster or headmistress (before I proceed, please do not be misguided that we blame the headmaster for all these cleanliness stuff, we know is a lot more complex than that.). The vision of the headmaster is very important to the teachers, students and even parents. Vision alone is not sufficient, it must be backed up by action too, but who is going to carry out these actions? No way can the headmaster do all these by himself but of course with the cooperation from teachers, and so many parties involve. A good headmaster is a good leader which can motivates and convince all his troops to go along with him and his troops must also support his vision and action. That is why it is important that headmaster (regardless the status of the school as some cluster school even come from a very difficult background) is able to lead his troops to achieve a mission that is in accordance towards the vision of Ministry of Education.

Lately, the language used to teach Science and Mathematics has become a hot topic. This issue will be discussed more in the coming weeks.