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Posts Tagged ‘Education’

Spring break came and went so quickly.  School is back in full swing now. Students in high school are starting to prepare for the AP and SAT tests.  This is the first time I see my daughter studying seriously for a test. While testing is one way to judge a student’s knowledge and skills, it is not always so good at evaluating a student’s problem-solving methods, or the student’s ability to do things.  I begin to really appreciate the project-based method of teaching and learning.  Can math be taught using a project-based system?

Did you know that students can earn points on our site?  Once they earn enough points, they can get fun prizes, selected through our website.  I want to congratulate two students from Tennessee who claimed prizes in the past month!  Check out the prizes we offer at Points and Prizes.

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March is the month that most schools in California have their spring breaks.  My kids’ spring break is the last week of March.  If you plan to travel somewhere for the break, take the opportunity to get connected with your kids by playing some games that are creative and stimulating. We often play 20 questions on our road trips.  One person thinks of an object and the rest of the family will guess.  You can ask a total of 20 questions, to which the answers can only be yes or no.  Why don’t you give this a try the next time when you are on the road with your family? Here are ten objects you can start with (our family rule is that only single-word objects are allowed):

  1. Pocketknife
  2. Screwdriver
  3. Orange, or apple, or tangerine
  4. Panda
  5. Disneyland
  6. Skyscraper
  7. Wet suit
  8. French fries
  9. Tiramisu
  10. Laptop

I am sure everyone has their own strategy.  The strategy we use is the following:

  1. Figure out if the object is gas, solid or liquid
  2. Figure out what the approximate size of the object is, e.g., is it bigger than me?  Is it bigger than my hand?
  3. Figure out if the object is alive
  4. When you figure out the above 3, it is amazing how much you can narrow down the choices.  Our success rate is about 90%.

We like this simple and yet creative game because it is fun, it engages the entire family, and it trains our children one way to solve problems.

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Happy Chinese New Year! The Chinese use the lunar calendar in addition to the solar calendar. According to the lunar calendar, the new year this year was on Feb. 3, which is the Year of the Rabbit. The twelve animals in the Chinese zodiac cycle every 12 years. Because every month in the lunar calendar has 30 days, and there are no months with 31 days, every 4 years the lunar calendar is corrected by repeating a month.

The Chinese keep track of their birthdays using both the solar and the lunar calendar; the older generations tend to celebrate such events according to the lunar calendar. In China, people get a week off for Chinese New Year. This is like Thanksgiving and Christmas combined, as most people in China get together with their family and extended family, to give presents and red packets with freshly printed money in them. New Year’s Eve is filled with the sound of firecrackers, which people set off until dawn on New Year’s Day. I remember years when I would open the door on New Year’s Day to see the ground covered by “snow” from the small pieces of paper from the firecrackers. On New Year’s day, people will pay visits to their friends and relatives and wish them a Happy New Year, which we call “Bai Nian” in Mandarin Chinese (the dominant dialect in mainland China). I want to wish all the members of goldstudent a Happy Chinese New Year.

I recently read an article from the Wall Street Journal titled “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior” by Amy Chua, a professor at Yale. It was an excerpt from a book she wrote recently. When I read the article, I was very intrigued. Being a Chinese mother myself, I am very aware of the Chinese and American culture and value differences. I don’t think Chinese mothers are superior, but they are certainly different.

In my opinion, Chua seems to do things to an extreme. She would not allow her daughters to have sleepovers or to perform in school plays (which I certainly allow and encourage). She set high expectations for her daughters, requiring that they play either piano or violin (there I admit that I have similar views). I also share in other expectations; I expect my children to get straight As. About 25% of the students graduating from my daughter’s junior high were straight A students. This means to me that even a straight A student is not at the very top, just in the top quartile. I want my children to play a music instrument, because I think it is good to appreciate music, and to have a way to express oneself musically in times of happiness, loneliness, or sadness. Both my children have been playing piano for more than five years. I use various techniques to get them to do things I think are good for them, ranging from rewards (such as offering cell phones and game consoles) to making them feel bad for not doing things (e.g. telling them that if they are not good in math, how would they be able to manage their own finances, or get a job with good pay).

Where I differ from Chua the most is that I think academic excellence is only one aspect of a child’s development, however important. I think emotional intelligence, interpersonal, social, and communication skills, the ability to work well in a group, to learn to lead and to learn to resolve conflicts, are just as important, if not more important, in terms of life skills. As a result, I encourage my children to play team sports. I don’t think there is a right or a wrong way to raise children. We are different as people, as parents, and there is no single story, nor should there be.

If you want to read the entire article by Chua, follow the link: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704111504576059713528698754.html

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Happy Holidays
Happy holidays! The first semester of school is coming to an end. Some of our students are preparing for end-semester exams, and we are getting ready for the holidays. This is a good time to relax and recharge, to reflect on the past and to plan for the future. We wish you all a happy holiday season!

Recently I had a chance to attend a meeting where I heard Salman Khan speak. He is the founder of Khan Academy. This is a website that offers many free educational videos, hosted on YouTube, covering a wide range of topics. These videos focus on teaching one concept at a time. I like the visual way of teaching. Check it out at www.khanacademy.org. These videos are good complement to the worksheets we provide at GoldStudent, which help children master a math concept.

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We heard feedback from several of our members that it can be intimidating to see the timer on the tests and worksheets. It would be great to make that feature an option set by the users. We are taking that feedback seriously, and are working on allowing the students to turn the timer off or on, for all worksheets or tests. We are in the final testing stage of that feature, and will deploy it soon.

If you have any other suggestions for how we can make the site easier to use, please email us at feedback@goldstudent.com.

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A new school year has started. It happened way too soon for me and my family. Nevertheless, the new school year is here, with new schedules, new teachers, and new routines! My daughter, starting 10th grade, is taking calculus in zero period, which means the class starts at 7 am! Personally I think it is way too early to start a class for anyone, not to mention kids who still need more sleep to grow properly. I don’t remember ever having to take a class that early.

Watching my daughter move up in her math classes reminds me again how important it is to have a solid foundation. Without a strong foundation in arithmetic, fractions, algebra, exponentials, it is almost impossible to move on to functions, without which calculus and geometry is nearly impossible to learn. Once again, my husband and I are so glad that we helped our children build a strong math base from their elementary school days, those drills we did to prepare for math Superbowl. If you have kids still in elementary school, you may want to think of a way to do some regular math with your kids. The fruit of these efforts will show up years later and it is all worth it!

A big change in my family is that my niece from China came to live with us and will finish high school here. She is almost 16 and is attending a local private school. We were all very nervous about how she would manage the language and culture barrier. So far she is doing really well. In China, people think that American students have almost no homework, and that they can eat and drink in the classrooms. She was surprised to find that in fact American students have a fair amount of homework, and cannot eat or drink in the classroom. She was also surprised that the books here are so heavy, and that the students in high school have to move from one classroom to another. In China, high school students stay in the same room while the teachers change classrooms. She is happy, but surprised to find out that there appears to have less homework on weekends compared to weekdays, which is the opposite of what happens in the Chinese system, where teachers assign a lot of homework over the weekend because they think the students get two free days! Students in China cannot therefore take much time off to relax on the weekend. In the best case they get a half-day free, with the rest spent on homework or extra enhancement lessons.

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This summer just flew by. My family made a trip to China and visited our relatives. My kids also had a chance to interact with Chinese students of the same age as them, 13-18 years old. My daughter had a chance to share some American culture with the Chinese students, such as our major holidays, famous places in the US, and popular foods as well as American sports.

It is fascinating to see how the commercial companies have transferred US culture to other countries. All the Chinese students know McDonald’s, KFC, Burger King and Starbucks. They are amazed by the different types of breakfast cereals we have. You would be surprised to know which two holidays the junior high and high school students in China want to know about: Halloween and April Fool’s Day! We found that the Chinese students have much more homework and much more pressure to perform academically. All the students we met (about 80 in total) are taking extra classes to catch up from last year’s studies. Many will take just two to three weeks off during the summer, and will then start more supplemental classes to get a head start on next year’s classes, such as math, physics, and chemistry. For junior high and high school students, their typical school day goes from 8 am to 5 pm, and their homework will keep them busy until 11 pm every night.

I had a chance to look at the math textbooks for the 9th grade students. They are covering very similar topics to what is covered in the US. However, Chinese textbooks are much thinner, about 1” thick compared to the more than one inch thick books we use here. As a result, the textbooks are much lighter. Do our textbooks need to be so thick and heavy? I don’t know. I know that thicker does not mean better.

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