Monday, October 12, 2009


All this time, I've been wandering a lot. I am now working with an NGO on an English training project for the Kilimanjaro porters from rural areas. There's been too many turning points and dangerous curves on the road to mention all of them but it seems that teaching is going to be part of my life for quite some time. I'm glad I made this decision, of course guided by fate.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

English camp

I am off for three days on an English camp. All my kids, 6 classes of them, are going to be there. It will be a challenge to keep up my responsible teacher's role while being around them constantly. I am such a kid myself! I easily get carried away, especially if I am not focused on getting my message across in the classroom. The year is soon coming to an end and I already know that I am going to miss them. We literally spend our lives with these little ones. The foreign teacher's staff room is the heart of the building. All the kids gravitate around our office, come to finish off some work on the free desktop, jump in for a chat at the break, or ask for information about exchange programmes.
Today was teacher's day. One of my classes gave me a flower along with a picture of them lot. I almost cried of emotion.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Descartes mania

My grade 7 students are starting to explore with coordinates, finding the distance between two points or the coordinates of the midpoint of a line segment for example. I made a point of introducing them to my French hero of the month, Mr Rene Descartes. None of them had ever heard his name before and I think they enjoyed the ride over to the 17th century. They love to see what all these mathematicians we refer to looked like in those days. I could hardly retain my hilarity hearing their comments.

'He looks so bored, writing books all day long!'

'But, but, but...he's old! And he has long hair!'

'Oooh, so that's Mr Rene. I wish he hadn't spent so much time thinking and writing. Then we wouldn't have to learn about coordinates!'

On a more serious note, we are soon going to move on to:
* Linear equations: introduction to algebra (grade 7)
* Linear equations II: y=mx+p and all you can derive from that ;) (grade 8)
* Angle properties of circles (grade 9)

If you have any experiences to share about these topics, feel free to comment. I am quite keen on improving my lessons.

Mathematically yours,


Saturday, January 10, 2009


It's Sunday morning. I am at home, sipping a cup of espresso and scratching my head over my exams. My students exams, that is. I was informed on Friday afternoon that my 3 final exams are due on Monday in the form of 40 multiple choice questions each. Gloops.

Since I always aspire to sprinkle sticky stars over their little heads, I am preparing such problems:

"In your drawer, there are 3 pairs of white socks, 5 pairs of blue socks and 1 pair of yellow socks. If you pick two socks out of the drawer (one after the other without replacing the first one), what is the probability of getting two matching socks?"

Enjoy your weekend, fellow maths heads :) Share the love!


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Back on track

I have abandoned blogging about maths, distracted by a myriad of other things in my life but I happened to miss it I am. Back and smiling, enthusiastic about life and its vicissitudes. I was reflecting on today's teaching and the first thing I meant to share was the great solidarity among my grade 7 students. They tend to organise themselves in spontaneous little groups, help each other out and almost work as an self-regulated unit. I wonder how much I've contributed to this state of affairs (encouraging better students to explain the work to their mates) but I was quite pleased to see it functioning today.

Cheers for my little ones :)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Perfect squares

Does anyone out here have ideas about how to set up a nice visual activity to teach middle school kids square numbers (perfect squares)?

Also, any challenging problems are welcome, e-mail me your instructions! I am very fond of logical thinking that doesn't involve much calculations. The kids are always delighted to find the answer by looking at the problem from a different angle, drawing a picture or just arranging the data in a way that makes the questions simple.


In unrelated news, several students told me that I had lost weight. I wonder how it's even possible, given the quantities I've been eating over the past two weeks. Well, miracles are at your doorstep, as it were.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Second semester officially open

For the first day of the second semester, I have decided to go easy on the dormant minds of the students. I bet they're more sleepy than dormant, since I can see an unexpected vivacity in their eyes. We start off by a reflection on the previous term. What did they enjoy? What would they like to see improved? What was difficult?

I don't know about you but I always thought that there's nothing like a good problem to hook you up to the matter. I selected this one for my grade seven monsters:

One night, Mint, Nett, Kate, Rakjang and Mai were having a sleep over at Mint’s place.

Mint couldn’t sleep so she went down to the kitchen, where she found a bowl full of mangoes. She ate 1/6 of the mangoes and went back to sleep.

Later that same night, Nett was hungry so she took 1/5 of the remaining mangoes.

Still later, Kate awoke, went down to the kitchen and ate 1/4 of the mangoes Nett had left.

Even later, Rakjang ate 1/3 of what was then left.

In the morning, Mai ate 1/2 of the remaining mangoes for breakfast, leaving only 3 mangoes for the dog.

How many mangoes were originally in the bowl?

And a little bit more challenging:

Three sailors were marooned on a deserted island that was also inhabited by a band of monkeys. The sailors worked all day to collect coconuts but they were too tired to count them so they agreed to divide them equally the next morning.

During the night, one sailor woke up and decided to get his share. He found that he could make three equal piles, with one coconut left over, which he threw to the monkeys. Thereupon, he had his own share and left the remainder in a single pile.

Later that night, the second sailor awoke and, likewise, decided to get his share of the coconuts. He also was able to make three equal piles, with one coconut left over, which he threw to the monkeys.

Somewhat later, the third sailor awoke and did exactly the same thing with the remaining coconuts.

In the morning, all three sailors noticed that the pile was considerably smaller but each thought that he knew why and said nothing. When they then divided the remaining coconuts equally, each sailor received seven and one was left over, which they threw to the monkeys.

How many coconuts were in the original pile?

I expect good cooperation work in this class, that may result in a variety of approaches.