Category Archives: Teaching | 教育

Open the schools | 开学

We are in mid July.  The latest news says that many schools may not open for the fall, citing spike in coronavirus cases.

However, the lockdown has deprived the livelihood of millions of people, who used to be happy and thriving.  The lockdown has thrown everyone into a stress test.  Millions did not and millions will not pass the test.  Ten of millions of hardworking healthy people now have lost their jobs and their dignity to be self-reliant. With no jobs in sight, they are living on hand outs.

Closing schools further cripples the future of America.   Without classrooms that serve as center of knowledge, by leaving young students wandering in the internet wilderness without supervision, our young do not get a solid foundation of education, they risk misinformation, and will become less competitive and poorer workers.

America has never been in lockdown prior to Covid-19 and we thrived.   Strick lockdowns work in China but they will not work in America, a society used to freedom. Freedom does come with a heavy cost. Accepting that, let’s not to be weakened by fear. Let us be brave and thrive.

Given the danger that schools may continue to close in the fall, we at Magic Math Mandarin will dedicate more resource to our online classrooms to help meet our students’ needs.  We will NOT fail you!

For those who are too worried to back to living, we have compiled some information for you.  Learning history will put our fears in places where they belong.

    1. 1968 flu pandemic written by Kara Rogers, the senior editor of biomedical sciences at Encyclopedia Britannica, where she oversees a range of content from medicine and genetics to microorganisms.   The flu outbreak of 1968 was the third influenza pandemic of the 20th century and resulted in an estimated one million to four million deaths.   The virus is called the “H3N2”.  From the link, you can read about other pandemics too.
    2. The Forgotten Hong Kong Flu Pandemic of 1968 Has Lessons for Today written by John Fund, originally published by National Review.    Read the entire article as you should.   We quote Joel Hay, a professor of pharmaceutical economics and policy at the University of Southern California, says that the role of science has also changed. Medical technology has vastly improved from a time when people still did computations on slide rules. But the data it produces has seduced some into thinking that we know more than we actually do and that we can produce useful models to predict the course of this novel coronavirus disease. “We’re being bombarded with data, but we often act like the guy who looks for his keys under the lamppost because the light is better there,” he told me. “We aren’t asking more fundamental questions, like ‘Does this $20 trillion experiment in lockdowns actually work?’”
    3. History of Pandemics by Nicholas LePan for Visual Capitalist.

Being literate | 有文化

In this weekend’s financial math class we watched a PBS video together, and we discussed what it means to be literate. 


The original meaning of “literate” is to be able to read and write, and the word “literature” is associated with poetry, drama, novels , especially those classics.   It was important to be literate because one could not get a decent job or run a business without these basic skills.


But our time has long since entering into one that requires much more than reading and writing: financial skills, computer skills, and the ability to read and write in another language are all become essentials.   We are doomed if we are not literate in these essential skills.


The main character in this PBS interview is a successful writer.   He lives in East Hamptons, he has a big house and a big yard.  He has two children went on to have great careers after having gone to expensive private schools.   But he says he does not have $400 for emergency expenses.


The PBS interviewer asked him for his personal decisions that impacted his financial situation (8:35):


“You live in the Hamptons, most people would say that’s a really expensive part of Hamptons.”


If you watch carefully, you see that he shops at expensive markets and buys at the custom meat counter.  His house is falling apart into disrepair because he never took the time to do the daily maintenance (if you do not want to maintain your home then you should live in an apartment).   He says if he had $100000 he could get the repair done.   Has he ever thought about DIY?  He has no one to blame but himself.
He openly admits “I am a financial illiterate” “Financial illiterates pay a heavy price for their financial illiteracy”. (10:07)


However courageous it was for him to admit it openly, he is still not realizing the path to financial strength is in his own hands.    He complains that “so many Americans have to give up their dreams.”   We cannot help but wondering “Would you consider start doing instead of dreaming?


Financial illiteracy is a key factor in the financial fragility of the middle class.  On the one hand, the fiscal principle of savings and taking care of your assets seem to have fallen out of common sense.  On the other hand, we are experiencing much more complex financial products.  The knowledge of people have not kept up.


Welcome to our New Google Classroom!!😃

Hello everybody!😃 Welcome back to Magic Math Mandarin.  Since we are staying home because of covid-19, we brought our classes to google classroom so our students can keep on learning even during this pandemic👩‍🏫. Now we can all communicate with each other online💻. In this classroom we will be learning Chinese🈷, math➗, and programming👩‍💻. Our teachers will put new assignments everyday about each topic.  If you would also like to join our wonderful classrooms then here is the class code mtxl6j4

Remember to stay home and don’t get sick!😷 Please join our classroom today!👍💖


Learning Swift | 学习Swift

This weekend we started our first lesson on Swift. Swift is the language used by Apple across its products.

The class first tried using XCode, which is Apple’s IDE for Swift. But not every child is familiar with the Mac. So we switched to a learn Swift phone app, which worked well. But the class really love Swift Playground.  It is like Scratch to them.  The difference is that: we are going to make an app in two months using Swift.

The kids enjoyed programming a lot!  They didn’t want to stop.

The only minor issue is that it only works on iPads.

Our cofounder’s new book release

We are really proud of our co-founder(联合创始人 lián hé chuàng shǐ rén), Sarah Chen, for her new book release, which is now public.   Congratulations!

Her book is available in various outlets:

Here is her pre-release announcement on LinkedIn in July this year.



Notebook of mistakes | 错题本

We learned the phrase 错题本 this past summer in China attending two-week XDF summer classes.   It means “wrong solution notes” or “error management book”, meant for you to keep  track of where your mistakes are and to make sure they do not happen again.   This is used in all classes we attended: math, Chinese and English.   They are all formatted in similar templates for documenting: date, problem, error, why it happen, and what is the correct answer.    Doing this systematically helps focus on the target areas and improves efficiency.   Basically you are customizing the learning for yourself.   Those so-called artificial intelligence guided learning will not do better than this.

To dedicate a specific notebook to your mistakes is quite a good idea.    It may seem unusual for those who like to move fast and break things.   But this is definitely indispensable when we are building a skill.

Who says that error management book or notebook of mistakes should only be applicable to school kids?   Could we also expand that concept to life and work?  Probably.

Let’s go get a 错题本 and get it started today!


Cosmic distance ladder | 宇宙距离

The class has no homework today.  We watched the video lecture by Terence Tao (see link below).   The name of the video is “Cosmic Distance Ladder”.  Quite a mystifying name.

The stories, which Terence Tao told in the lecture, were about philosophers and astronomers from ancient times, such as Aristotle and others, and those who were closer to us in history.  What all of them have in common is that they were able to use good observations and ingenious reasonings to indirectly measure the distance between the Earth and the Moon, and the Sun, and the distance of the galaxies, without any technology (the earliest did not even know the number Pi), with amazing accuracy (as verified by what we know today).

You should definitely watch the video a few times.  Think about this: compare with human observation and reasonings, what computers can do is still just technology and tools.  The computers can’t do indirect reasonings that connect the dots from disparate information. It makes zero sense to believe computers (including phones) are smarter than you are.

So, use your great mind. Let your mind observe and reason, and make computers help you along the way.




Parents and students in China – impressions from our summer trip | 中国家长和学生- 暑期中国行印象

We always knew that Chinese parents and teachers are dedicated to education.   Even so, we were still amazed by how Chinese teachers and parents are working hand-in-hand pushing the boundaries of education.

We don’t necessarily agree with everything they do, such as the bias towards solving test problems in classes.  But there are a great deal more things we agree or appreciate, such as relentless hard work and practice than ones we don’t appreciate.

Below is a snapshot of a first-day summer class for seven year old children.   Just look at how intently the parents are.   Some parents sat through the entire class to take notes, and some sat in the lounge in the corridor chatting about schools or doing various things while waiting for their kids.    The temperature was about 100 degrees outside.

Magic Math Mandarin

The level of dedication is astonishing. 

From time investment perspective, at least one family member, whether mother, father or a grandparent, spends as much as 20 hours and up each week on their children’s education.   

From the money side, summer/winter break, weekend, or after-hour schoolings are privately run, which aren’t cheap.   Some well-to-do ones have spent hundreds of thousands (measured in US dollars) before high school.  Some bold ones even send their kids, sometimes as young as eight or nine years old, to overseas private boarding schools in exclusive locations in Switzerland, the UK and other places.    Poorer families still pay for various lessons to make sure their kids are as nourished as possible in education.   For those very constraint in resources, such as those parents who must work 7 days a week, we saw their kids studying with video lessons on mobile phones in cram corners instead of hanging out loose.  

The primary motivation is the quality of survival for the next generation: to get into top middle schools, top high schools, top universities, great social network and ultimately great jobs in adulthood.   Parents start count down of the number of days till college entrance exam even at primary schools.   Kids routinely study until mid-night since third grade, and don’t get a day off until winter/summer break.

On the contrary, in United States, students and parents are heard asking for less homework and more free time to play.    Over the last two decades, the quality of education, as measured by test scores, have steadily declined in the US.   Less work is a key factor.  However, a deeper question is: why do American parents and kids want less work from schools?   These questions need to be answered by representative data, not ideaologies.

Dedication to innovation in education | 为教育创新

In Kaggle machine learning competition discussions, teams spent huge effort in order to have 0.00001 gain in performance working with masked datasets to try to predict something real or hypothetical.   Have any teams tried anywhere half as hard trying to have 0.01 gain on education?   What if they do? That ratio of 0.01 and 0.00001 is 1000. When you multiple the ratio of 1000 to the number of children you want to help, it becomes your calling.

To make that 1% change, 10% or more in improvement need to proved and shown.   That means to get kids better jobs that make more money than their peers in shorter time along with equipping them with essential surviving skills: money management, basic life sciences, social skills, and a set of strong guiding principles.   These are our focuses in education.

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