Singapore math

Too often, we beat ourselves up for our paper-chase of an education system, forgetting its strengths. Did you know Singapore math is actually a big deal in the US?

Singapore math may well be a fad, too, but supporters say it seems to address one of the difficulties in teaching math: all children learn differently. In contrast to the most common math programs in the United States, Singapore math devotes more time to fewer topics, to ensure that children master the material through detailed instruction, questions, problem solving, and visual and hands-on aids like blocks, cards and bar charts. Ideally, they do not move on until they have thoroughly learned a topic.

Principals and teachers say that slowing down the learning process gives students a solid math foundation upon which to build increasingly complex skills, and makes it less likely that they will forget and have to be retaught the same thing in later years.

And with Singapore math, the pace can accelerate by fourth and fifth grades, putting children as much as a year ahead of students in other math programs as they grasp complex problems more quickly.

What we would like to know: What do parents in Singapore say? Has Singapore math worked well for your child so far?

To hire a tutor or not?

While parents can be unsure about plenty of things, whether home tuition is necessary is one issue parents in Singapore seldom are unsure about. More often than not, parents in Singapore rely on their children’s result slips to decide if their children need home tuition. For many parents, poor exam results are synonymous with that time of the year where they shop around for tuition agencies and ask other parents to recommend tuition teachers with proven track records.

Notwithstanding, there are other signs parents should pay attention to.

Usually, a child who is experiencing academic troubles prefer to keep silent about it and would rather not talk any topic at all concerning school. If your child behaves this way, it can be a telltale sign that he is in need of some form of assistance regarding academics.

While these signs do show that your child needs help, they also may not necessarily point towards a need for home tuition. There could be a good chance your child might be overscheduled as well.

The real problem, he said, lies with parents, especially highly successful ones who have a high degree of control over their own lives and who try to take similar control over their children’s lives. This leads them to make choices about after-school activities out of anxiety instead of interest in their child’s well-being.

Especially in the competitive environment of Singapore’s schools today, parents are under as much, if not more, pressure to make sure their children perform well academically. Perhaps what is key is to spend more time with your child to understand why he is not doing well in school then prioritize and hire a tutor for the subject your child is struggling the most with. It is just as important to give your child some room to breathe – and learn. Signing your child up for tuition in almost every subject might backfire and end up killing his interest in school and learning instead.

Five reasons why you should send your teenager on a study tour

Stopping short of seeing your teen go through the same old wake-up-at-noon-and-stay-up-late drill over the December school holidays again, you wonder if it will do her (and your patience) any good to look into enrolling her on a study tour instead?

You do have the spare cash so it all boils down to convincing yourself why you should fund the trip and why this isn’t too early to let her go on an overseas trip without your supervision.

Here are five reasons why you should:

1/ So your teen probably won’t come back from the trip knowing exactly what she wants to do with the rest of her life but what it can do is to pull her out of her comfort zone into a few weeks of horizon-broadening experiential learning with her peers which may influence the way she thinks and deals with issues.

2/ She gets the opportunity to befriend fellow teens who come from a different background and culture. She also gets to see how her peers interact with others in an unfamiliar environment overseas. With the world being so connected these days, it won’t be hard for her to stay in touch with her new friends – on FaceBook, Instagram or otherwise.

3/ Depending on the destination of the study tour, your teen can pick up a new language or improve on a language that she already speaks. Learning in an immersion environment, even if it is just for a few weeks, can be instrumental in language learning. Forced to use the language or risk isolation, she can see for herself the benefits of speaking a second or third language.

4/ This can be a good practice in developing responsibility and independence, probably something you have nagged her about on a daily basis, from making her bed to helping you with the dishes. For a few weeks, she gets to be in a foreign country without parental supervision, managing an allowance to be spent on small souvenirs and snacks. You also get to see if she makes good on that promise to send you text message updates every other day.

5/ If the study tour involves a homestay, that’s all for the better. It definitely helps with language immersion (see point 3) and she may be compelled to be on her best behaviour while staying with a host family. And as much as we hate to admit it, teens might be less petulant when taking (possibly the same) advice from adults who are not their own parents.

If you still need convincing, could it be because you are concerned that your teen would take this as an all expenses paid holiday and learn nothing out of it? For your teen, aren’t all holidays with the family all expenses paid for anyway? The upside this time is she might come home with a fresh perspective of the world and perhaps an inkling of what she is passionate about for the years to come.