The Secret to Speed Math: Fun with Abacus

Sunday, June 9, 2019

As a child, I had always loved Math but something made me dread it -- The mental computation of huge numbers. Back in Primary school, my Math teacher used to drill us so much on model-drawing as well as mental sums, I became fearful of not being able to match up with the speed which my teacher had expected. Then one day, over on Channel 8, I saw a show teaching its audience how to improve mental calculations using the abacus! At 10years old, I was intrigued and glued myself to the TV every afternoon at 4pm, taking down notes on how to operate the beads. However, the explanations were too fast, the formulae were too many and I didn't even have an abacus to do a practical. Hence, I gave up.

Fast forward decades later, it was time for me to drill my kids in mental calculation. Big K aged 7+ is honestly not too bad in her Mathematics. However her bane was her speed at calculating. At age 6, she was so slow at even giving me the answers for making 10, I thought I wasn't doing it right. I did explore the possibility of introducing abacus then, but procrastinated as MOE took abacus out from the curriculum. A million thoughts ran through my mine: Was abacus deemed as useless hence the ministry took it out?

This was when I was introduced to Fun with Abacus. It is a school founder by Joy Tay, who started teaching abacus to the young by adopting syllabus from Taiwan. After a while, she created her own workbooks to fit the local crowdUsing her expertise as a certified Abacus Mental Arithmetic Trainer and her knowledge of the local education curriculum, Joy came up with the solution to help a child learn Mathematics during the challenging stages. She believes that a systematic structure in the teaching program not only help the child but also give parents and schools a firm foundation to assist in a child’s learning curve.

Below was a short interview I had with Joy:
Me: Why was abacus taken out of the curriculum? Is it still relevant?

Joy: Of course it is. It was taken out naturally because the school teachers had a million other things to handle and were short of time even for their core curriculum, let alone enrichments such as abacus. There are also many steps involved in abacus and it's tough for a teacher to be teaching this to a class of 40 young children. The focus will just not be there.

Me: How many years has Fun with Abacus been around?

Joy: We have been teaching for 15years, mainly at preschools. Hence, the relevance is still very much recognised.

Me: There seems to be different types of abacus. What's the difference?

Joy: Yes. Abacus has been around for ages. There are different types of abacus used in different countries. They vary according to the number of beads. Some with fewer beads may require more formulae.

At this juncture, Joy whipped out her abacus and explained to me. Fun with Abacus uses the one below, where you have 4 yellow beads, 1 orange bead on top and 4 yellow beads below.

After her explanation, I found that this type of abacus makes the most sense. Each bead represents a unit. Just like how addition and subtraction are taught in Primary schools.  Let me share with you my findings on an abacus used by another abacus school. Some other schools make use of the abacus which is divided into 1 bead (representing 5) on top and 4 beads at the bottom. For such abacuses, one will need to memorise many formula 口诀 in order to solve higher order addition and subtraction.

Photo credit: Kiasu Parent forum

For instance:
In a question of 7-4, the child needs to apply the 口诀 of "-4=+1-5" So the child is conditioned to first position the "7" (top" 1 bead down; bottom 2 beads up), followed by thumb up 1 bead (bottom) and flick 1 bead (top) up to derive the solution of such a simple equation. This seems redundant to me. 

However, in the 9 bead abacus which we are using, it makes a lot more sense as one bead represents one unit. When they do their vertical addition and subtraction in school, they will then see that both are parallel. With that, I was convinced that this was the school for us!

 Also, I had made a comparison with their worksheets. In another school, they actually made used of cartoon pictorial to represent the beads versus Fun with Abacus which uses actual circles. This allows less confusion for the child in future. 


Big K being older, managed to grasp the concept really fast. Right after our first session, she was so excited that she insisted on doing her homework the moment we reached home. I was really surprised but glad that abacus could ignite her love for Math. In fact, midway through the term, our teacher felt that she was ready for the Anzan which will eventually bring her to mental calculation. Anzan is the Japanese method of doing Mental Math by using a mental image of an abacus.  No physical abacus is used. This has been part of the compulsory curriculum in Japan for many years until the focus on the use of computers in daily life came along. Subsequently, due to the increase in usage of technology, there had been concerns that the general population is losing valuable skills, hence in 1989, the Japanese Ministry of Education reintroduced it into their elementary school curriculum. With such history, it's not difficult to be inclined with the notion that we are becoming too reliant on technology to perform simple tasks for us. 

In fact, I have personally seen how using the calculator is part of a muscle memory for young kids. I witnessed a child aged 12, using the calculator for 1/2 + 1/2 and yet another, aged 16, reaching out for the calculator naturally, to tabulate 1+1. Muscle memory, thanks to the usage of calculators officially for their Math papers at Primary 5. Way too young if you ask me!

After less than 3 months of weekly classes, I noticed that Big K's ability to count fast is improving. Despite the fact that I know she isn't using abacus or Anzan in her mental calculations yet. I believe the course has ignited her love for the subject.


When it comes to this boy, it's a little trickier. At age 4, he is rather fidgety and unfocused. Especially when it came to abacus which were all beads beads beads, nothing but beads. It did however helped that his sister was in the same class as him. You see, different levelled students can be grouped together and still receive individual attention from the teachers. But of course, as far as possible, the level of the class will not be too varied and is also kept small with a maximum of 6 students for effective learning. I'm pretty happy to note that now, he is talking less and working more and his butt is always on the chair! His concentration span is definitely longer now!

Small K wasn't competent for the number bond for 10 but after a few short sessions, he was able to shout out the answer immediately. Getting him to do his homework wasn't too tough also as he deems the abacus as a toy. The only thing is during lesson, I have to constantly remind him to get more work down and to have less talk as he was really having a good time with the teacher. He has made wonderful progress and is in fact catching up on Big K fast and furious After a few months, he too, had been introduced to the Anzan. I was initially very worried as to how he would take to it. I mean there are now no beads! You will have to visualise it yourself! To my surprise, he was superb at it! So much so, I believe he will catch up with Big K in no time.

Abacus may seem a little dry to some, so the teachers at Fun with Abacus always try to incorporate an element of fun. For instance, while teaching the number bonds, to assist them in remembering how to make tens, they turn it into a clapping game and calls the corresponding number for the bond a "buddy". Small K found it cute and was most willing to practice with me. Occasionally they also played games.

Here's Small K having fun fishing for the respective number bonds

At a certain level, the children will be given timed practice. Now this really excites Big K. She likes the adrenaline when she breaks her own record! They are each given a little timer to time themselves and hence, she can do her work independently without much help from me. Now that Small K is also getting the hang of doing his homework, he can also do most of the work independently. I just need to use eye-power on him.

Fun with abacus regularly sends their students for competitions overseas. Namely for the LCT Mental Arithmetic competition in Malacca as well as the International Mathematics Association Competition in Korat, Thailand. And these little brains all did very well! They managed to attain 1st to 5th placings for the respective competitions and they may be as young as 9years old! Hopefully one day, my little tots will be able to attain those standards too!

So with the advancement in technology, why am I still embarking my children on this journey. Well, the reason is simple, calculators and computers are all invented by mankind. It goes to show that the brain is far more superior if we tap on it. If we don't exercise it enough, it will go into solitude. While it is easy to reach out to the calculator in time to come, note that you are only allowed to use the calculator for Paper 2 at the primary level. Also, if the child is able to calculate fast enough, perhaps the time spent on fumbling with the calculator can be used wisely on solving other questions. Foundation in Math is very important in my opinion. It starts as young as when the child is in preschool or maybe even prior to that. If it isn't built well, trouble will start to surface predominantly when they hit Primary 5. By the, it may be too late to salvage. It takes time and effort to build. Similarly, abacus isn't a miracle pill. The child will not become quick in mental calculations overnight. It takes time and effort but I believe the rewards are real.

Fun with abacus accept children as young as 4 years old. Give them a call to check on their scehdule and head on down for a free trial and if you like it, Quote "JANICE WONG" and take $100 off their term fees.

Katong Plaza
West Coast Centre
Seng Kang West

or call: 97865383
Instagram: @funwithabacus

Review: How Bee Choo Origins helped my itchy scalp

Monday, May 20, 2019


Our hair are actually dead skin cells? When I was very young, I remembered my dad always ticking mom off for wasting money on her dead cells. I didn't quite understand till I was much older. I thought dad was simply being rude. But truth is, the hair is alive within the scalp but once it reaches the skin surface, they are not alive anymore. So to ensure that your skin cell can age and come out to the surface beautifully, regular maintenance for a healthy scalp is necessary. 

It is considered healthy if one loses 50-100 strands a day but anything more could indicate a deficiency in mineral, stress and many more. Post-partum hair loss can be quite a bitch too. While it is said to be normal and temporary, the usual hair growth cycle is between 6-12 months and that's kindof long to tolerate if you ask me!

I had been relatively lucky with regards to my crowning glory. As you can see, my head is rather voluminous. I didn't get much of a hair loss after giving birth and things are still looking pretty alright. However, I do have a problem -- ITCHY SCALP! During my younger days, I was in fact, shy to wear black as it would look like I had snow on it. I had dry flaky scalp. So much so it looks like dandruff. Eczema, excessive secretion of oil and head lice are also common causes of an itchy scalp. Just last year, I was hit by the lice! Yup, after all these years! I caught it from Big K who probably got it from school. I thought after that episode, things would be better but nope, the itch persisted though I wash my hair everyday.

Apparently, stress and humidity can also be causes. Those aren't really within my control. I tried various methods but they didn't seem to alleviate things, so I finally decided to give scalp treatment a try. It wasn't quite the first to-go solution for me because I was afraid of being pressured into purchasing a package. Such tactic is a common place these days especially if they have state-of-the-art machines. But I am happy to report that after 4 treatments, the staff did no push me into taking up any packages. In fact, from my understanding, they hardly run promotions on packages. They happened to have one while I was there and it was very reasonable. 11 sessions for the price of 10 ($480). Alternatively, you can pay as you use and per session is only $48! Love how affordable it is!

When I was first introduced to Bee Choo Origin, I found it utterly familiar. Then, when I looked through their 7 locations, I realised I passed by one outlet rather frequently! The herbal smell often invaded my nostrils whenever I walked past and their racks of towels hanging out by their shop was a testament to how good business is. Yes, in fact, whether was it day or evening, the place seemed to be brimming with people. 

So here's my experience.....

I entered the shop and stopped in my tracks. It was filled with a room of old ladies. Momentarily, I was disturbed. Ok, I know I've just crossed a very big milestone but putting me with a bunch of grey-haired women and men with receding hairline did hit me in the face. Reality is, if you don't start young, you may have serious issues and by then, it may take a longer time to cure, if it's even curable! The receptionist was very reassuring though, telling me that a child as young as 3 year old can do the treatment and she had indeed handled such a case before! In fact, because there aren't any chemicals, it is also safe for pregnant women. 

They started by scanning my scalp. I was half expecting a reddish scalp filled with dried flaky skin. Phew! What I saw was quite the contrary. My pores did look a little clouded by an accumulation of oil but other than that, I was told that I had very healthy hair! A good pore situation would be that one pore will have three strands of hair. I'm proud to announce that several, if not all my pores have three strands! Many newborn hair could also be seen. 

Step 1: The first step of the treatment was the application of ginger hair tonic on the scalp. This step prepares your scalp for the next few processes and better absorption of nutrients from the herbal cream. Next, 100% pure virgin olive oil is applied onto hair ends to prevent and ease out split ends while improving condition of the hair. Then comes the highlight -- The application of their specially formulated herbal treatment cream. Their herbs are apparently boiled for 3 hours so you can imagine all that goodness going into your scalp. I must warn you however, that if it is your first experience with TCM, you are probably going to cringe your nose a little. I personally love the smell of dang gui and ling zhi. It feels really luxurious to have them on my scalp. Bee Choo Origin makes use of premium herbs in their herbal cream. Their signature herbal cream are freshly brewed with all natural herbs and ingredients. They include:

This has anti-aging properties and helps in new hair cell regeneration

Ling Zhi
Reduces itchiness and risk of infection

He Shou Wu
Slows down grey hair reproduction and helps restore hair pigmentation. I have taken them orally before as a soup and did not quite like the taste so having them on my scalp is such a welcome alternative. 

Chuan Xiong
Strengthens hair follicles, resistant to breakage

Dang Gui
Regulates scalp immunity
Next, the head is steamed for 45minutes. This step helps to open up your scalp pores to remove impurities and aid in absorption of the herbal ingredients into the scalp. 

Their cream is effective in solving hair loss, itchy scalp, oily scalp, dandruff, white/grey hair and post-pregnancy hair loss. 

Step 2: After all that herbal goodness is applied onto my head, a 45 minutes steaming process takes place. This helps to open up the scalp pores to remove impurities and aid in absorption of the herbal ingredients into the scalp. The steamer really gives it a nostalgic feel.

Step 3: Lastly, the herbal cream will be washed off and hair partially blown dry. I really enjoyed the wash which was accompanied by a short head massage. After the treatment, you hair will still smell of herbs and this will probably last for approximately 2-3 days. The people around me did not complain about the smell so I guess it was alright. My hair colour changed too. Because I have bleached hair, the herbs infused into my hair and changed its hue. It gave it a shinier shade and the overall effect made my hair look healthier! Some friends even thought I had dyed my hair. The colour will likely to stain your towel slightly after one wash.  One thing to note: Do not swim right after treatment! Your scalp may also be slightly itchy after treatment. The consultant explained that this is due to the blood circulation after the scalp has been infused with the goodness from the herbs. The irritation should go away shortly.

My "new" hair colour under natural light. Looks pretty good right?

See! 3 strands per pore! So clear!

After 4 sessions, my pores indeed were unclogged. the residues have been effectively removed and the PH level has been rebalanced. No more itchy scalp! Yay!

It is pretty amazing how this local brand has grew. The founder started out in 2000 providing herbal haircare treatments for a handful of customers experiencing scalp issues. Word began to spread and today, they have set foot in more than 12 countries! Wow! Madam Cheah Bee Chew even published a book to say it all!

With such expensive herbs used, one would expect them to charge exorbitantly. But nooooo, they are only charging between $34 (for men's short hair) to $70 for below the waist. As a guide, my length is approximately $40. The fact that the place is teeming with aunties and uncles, goes to show that it’s effective yet affordable.  Love such pricings which doesn't burn a hole in the pocket. Their array of products are also very affordable. 

photo credit:

I personally bought hair serum crystal concentrate to try. It is essentially a beauty fluid with adds shine and silkiness to your tresses without getting it too oily. Enriched with Vitamin E and linseed extract, this bottle of goodness strengthens and increases your hair elasticity. I bought it primarily for Big K whose hair is terribly damaged because of swimming. Her hair is often in a tangled mess but I realised after a few applications, this serum did help to make it more soft and manageable. The best part, it's retailing at only $27!

Want a head of beautiful hair? Let your hair grow in a nutrient-filled environment by contacting them at 
Tel: 67423033
Operating Hours: 
Mon - Fri: 830am to 7pm
Sat, Sun & PH: 8am to 430pm

Review: Find a coach for your child with CoachRadar

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Happy children = happy mommy

Some of you might know that the husband was quite an athlete when he was younger. He played soccer, swam (i forced him to join the inter-class competition), conquered crazy stunts on the roller blade and did table tennis competitively. He was quite a monkey according to his mom. Perhaps that was why he picks up sports easily even to date. I wasn't too shabby either. During those good old school days, I participated in volleyball, badminton, swimming, bowling and tennis. I was Jack. Trying out everything but never could master anything. I was terrible at balancing. I put the blame on my parents who bought me a bike, but never once taught me how to ride or brought it down for me to try. Now with kids, I really hope they'd be like their father and inherit his agility and not my horrid sense of balance. To start off, Big K was said to be a tad slow in her gross motor skills when she was in N1. Being a first-time mom, I didn't know what milestones she was suppose to hit and blindly believed our N1 teacher. So even though we brought her to the playground daily, we still enrolled her for gym class. Fast forward 7 years, I have this to tell you new mommies: Believe in your child! They will get there eventually! 

So I nudged the hubs to guide her in table tennis. Sadly, he might have been the captain of his team back in University days, but he can't even coach his own daughter. He just didn't have the patience. I knew I needed help. Yet, I was clueless as to who to engage as a coach. I certainly did not want some quack training my child. By a stroke of fate, Coachradar was introduced to me. CoachRadar was founded with a mission to promote holistic upbringing in children. Their founders, who are a pair of lawyer and banker turned entrepreneurs duo, firmly believe that sports is pivotal in the success they found in the careers. Indeed, studies have shown that exercise increases blood flow to the brain hence creating more connection between the nerves, leading to better concentration, memory, creativity and better problem-solving skills. In summary, playing sports helps the brain to grow better.

With such a background, I knew i could trust the coaches who were under them. CoachRadar is somewhat like a tuition agency which has a host of professionals for you to choose from. In this case, a coach for the sport you are interested in learning. Yes! They do not only have table tennis, but an array of others like badminton, basketball, swimming and many more. They have an extensive network of coaches and you can choose one base on ratings, location and price. Still not convinced that they do not enlist quacks? Well, they choose to partner only those who are experienced and certified. The coaches are required to submit their identity documentation and proof of their certifications during the application process. They also carry out rigorous search within the public domains to verify their information. With this, I felt much more assured. In fact, a quick check with people in the table tennis scene led us to confirm that the coach we were connected with, is indeed a qualified one in Singapore. But do you know what's the best part? This is a FREE platform! Yes, they do not charge any admin fee or commission! All prices shown are the rates of the coaches. You pay the coaches of course.

How does  it work? 

You may browse through the selection of coaches and read through their credentials as well as reviews. Once you've decided, all you need to do is to request a booking with the coach of your choice with a preferred lesson type and schedule. Upon confirmation, you'll receive each other's contact information to ask further questions of request scheduling changes. Yup, it is that simple! 

So how did Big K perform?
She gave table tennis a try at age 5. She hated it. She couldn't reach the table and hence was frustrated and tired. We had to stop. Now that she is taller, She could hit with more ease and I was pleasantly surprised that even though she hadn't played for a long while, her touch was still there. Papa bear said that she had ball sense. Coach Toby also commented that she had potential. Indeed, within a mere 4 lesson, she was able to better her forehand, learn backhand and how to serve a ball! Not first class smashes but good enough for me! I was pretty impressed. That made her more confident even though she still tells me how she dislikes the heat. The girl needs to step out of her comfort zone and Learn! Sorry hun, Mummy doesn't want to breed a greenhouse-child. 

So how did Small K perform?
Small K is academically 5yo this year. Theoretically, this is the right age to start him off this sport. Hence, we let him have a go as well. However, this boy preferred to be a ball boy more than anything else! *face palm. Papa bear, however, said this was actually a skill too. OK! If you say so! Small K was extremely not focused and more interested in chasing the ball than hitting the ball, but Coach Toby was so patient in guiding him. So much so, I was a little embarrassed. Coach Toby was well-versed on how to coach children. Firstly, he suggested that our session be a 1hour instead of a 2hours session. Initially, I thought a 2hour would be good as the child could hit many balls and have sufficient practice. But nope, you could see their stamina dwindling after 45mins of play. So, Coach Toby was correct! He also attempted to speak to my children at their level. He squatted and ensured that the eye level was the same! Most importantly, he kept encouraging Small K, telling him it's perfectly fine not to hit the ball. On our second lesson, Small K was a whole lot better. So, did he have potential like the sister? hmmm...I can't really tell yet. He seems far better at running though! Perhaps I should get him a coach for track and field! 

Over and above, I think this platform is really great if you wish to get a coach to guide your child in whichever sport your child likes or simply testing out waters to see if things work out. You never know, he may just be the next Joseph Schooling. Head over to CoachRadar today to connect your kids with trusted sports coaches in Singapore and groom a well-balanced child! #balanceforsuccess

Review: Baking with Spurbox

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Last Christmas we attended Spurbox’s workshop and learnt how to bake swissroll. 

I really loved how Big K and I were able to learn something new together. This Christmas we were back for some baking fun! 

Located in the heart of the city, just a stone’s throw away from City Hall Mrt station, Spurbox’s new location is a welcome. The facade is also nice and bright. I was half expecting the place to be a cramped office space as many years back, i worked in the same building. But the moment the doors of the lift opened, I was greeted by whitewashed walls and a big cake! The kids were immediately lured towards the pushcart that was festooned with Christmas decorations and the cart doubled up as an information counter. How creative!

The holiday workshops were catered for kids between 4 to 12yo. Nice! Because both kids can attend! Ideally i can just sit one corner and relax because they have great trainers helping the little ones. But it was probably a better idea for me to accompany Small K as he wasn’t as meticulous in the kitchen as his big sister. I was a tad concerned that Big sister might feel left out. She is, afterall, the emotional one. So i managed to shuttle between two classrooms which were adjacent to each other. 

Truthbetold, i was a little apprehensive about the baking bit. I mean 4year old baking a cake? Seriously? Well, the easy bit was that the batter was pre-prepared and whisked. It would be great if they could try their hands at it but the cakes would probably all turned out a flop, not to mention the mess these little ones would make! But the great bit was that the trainer did let everyone have a go at whisking his batter. It was really a great opportunity for Small K to handle the knife on his own and to decorate his own cake. The ocd side of me did try to hold back when I saw how untidy his dots were or how unsymmetrical his shapes were. But I knew better than to interfere. When I wasn't with him, he did ask the trainer for help. I was so proud of this boy!

Baking can give children an opportunity to develop several coordination skills. Besides making memories together with your child, one can also develop bilateral coordination through kneading or flattening the dough; eye-hand coordination through slicing up the fondant, hand strengthening through squeezing the dough into balls, spatial perception and math through measuring various ingredients. There really are many benefits and i would love to do it more often at home but i hate the mess! So it’s perfect that I can outsource.

Apart from baking, while the cakes are popped into the oven, the kids were ushered to another room for craft work. In line with the theme, Small K made a PJ mask pencil holder while Big K made her favourite unicorn hairband. This was the section when i stepped out completely and sat at the lounge area. The adults really didn’t need to be there. Nice.

Smelt so yummy I wanted to eat them there and then!

yeah taste your sweets as you bake! Why not? Yumz!

I was pleasantly pleased at how the final product turned out. In particular, how Big K managed to do 99% of the My Little Pony Popsicle cakes herself. Looks like my worries were unfounded. Her deft little fingers were able to work through those little ears and hair. I was impressed. 

Apart from the holiday workshops, Spurbox has several other ongoing workshops: 
Junior Gourmet
A 3-in-1 thematic programme that comprises of baking, storytime and crafting. Recommended for 2 - 10 years old

Junior Baker: 
A hands-on experience where each lesson is planned based on specific skill sets. Recommended for 5-12 years old

For the budding artist to develop new skills and talents while designing unique creations.  
Recommended for 4 - 10 years old

Art Discovery: 
Focuses on many artisan crafts from clay sculpting to bag making. 
Recommended for 4-12 years old

More recently, they've also launched their party packages. They've got a party room for rent so you don't have to worry about venue. Packages starts from $588 and you can customise your party with 3 programs: 
1) Baking 
90 mins of themed baking, craft and story time

2) Art & Craft
90 mins of artisan work ranging from clay to canvas.

3) Fantasy
90 mins of dress up, face painting, puppet show and make believe!

Planning a party seems to be a piece of cake over at Spurbox! 

Judging by their smiles, I'm pretty sure we would be back for more!


Quote Janice10 to get a 10% off everything on their web! Offer valid till 15 December so what are you waiting for!

You can connect with them over on 

 Disclaimer: All photos are property of www.themishmashmess.blogspot. Please seek permission before reposting and give due credit when doing so. We were invited to their workshop for the purpose of this review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own and written according to my experience in using the products/ services.