Review: Primary 1 Preparatory course at Early Math Matters

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Many of you who know me, would know that I am fully capable of teaching my own child. I am no tiger mom (I secretly wish I am) and work has been taking me away from my kids. There is so much potential in them at this age and the thought of not tapping on this potential to the fullest makes me upset. I have been very sluggish, so much so, I started getting panic attacks after we registered Big K for her Primary school. Reality finally sank in but my actions did not co-relate to my thoughts. There was just too much on my plate. I needed help. Additionally, Big K was showing signs of lethargy towards Math. I knew I needed a new approach. Hence, I was very excited when Early Math Matters approached us to join them on their P1 Preparation Course. 

Early Math Matters was founded by Mr Norman Tien (my idol from long ago by the way), who has over 20+ years of in-depth experience in the education sector. He has written books and trained MOE teachers in Singapore schools on how to help students ‘see’ Math. The interesting thing is, he was never a trained teacher! That is why he is my idol! Whoever says that only NIE-trained teachers are capable of teacher? His curiosity has led him to come up with many creative ways to help children excel. Students these days learn through memory, hence their creativity is hampered. However, I don't blame them as we are so consumed by the rat race, it is far easier to ask an older child to accept and memorise rather than to spend time coming up with creative answers. Hence, a good habit has to be inculcated since young. We should not spoonfeed our children (not too much at least) and should let them explore and problem-solve on their own. That is actually the new direction seen in the local education scene. Recognising that it is crucial to expose the little ones to Math, Mr Norman Tien decided to branch out from NeuroMath Junior (which was started in 2012) and set up an entity solely for pre-schoolers. 

Given my background, I am qualified to teach my kids. However, I have to admit that i am not the best plus I am always on a lookout for alternative ways to teach my children. And more importantly, i need to maintain my sanity. I am not an advocate of rote learning. Not at this moment at least. I believe that children this age should learn through purposeful play. Many enrichment centres say that they include a play element in their curriculum, however, I have never been more impressed by any other than Early Math Matters! They make use of interactive manipulatives to create an immersive learning environment. More importantly,  their ideology is totally in sync with mine! 

Early Math Matters caters to children between 3-6yos (wish i had discovered them earlier). Their team of professionals have come up with their own curriculum and workbooks to guide students through big topics like substitution, model drawing and volume, just to name a few. With their lively lessons, together with passionate teachers, they expose students to early learning which builds strong multi-layered foundation of their cognitive abilities, conceptual skills and application abilities. All these are crucial to giving our little ones the edge later in life. There are certain cognitive skills your child needs to master before he turns 7. They are (in no particular order):

  1. Visual
  2. Auditory
  3. Motor Skills
  4. Memory
  5. Processing Speed
  6. Logic reasoning
  7. Spatial reasoning
  8. Attention Span

 I am impressed at how creatively the manipulatives are put to play. Students are also given investigative tasks to hone their lateral thinking. That is to think out of the box when it comes to solving problems. Solutions do not rain down from the sky so one really needs to try to solve problems through an indirect and creative approach. This is a critical skill which is sadly lacking in today's youth.

The curriculum and teaching methodology over at Early Math Matters is excellent as there is no rote learning but instead, innovative methods to create better understanding of the topic. At 5-6year old, the child's Math intelligence should span across 13 topics ranging from Model drawing, angles, volume, shapes, area and perimeter and length, just to name a few. It is really quite a handful so if the child is not engaged, Math will become a chore for him.

For our first lesson, Big K was introduced to Foxx and Friends. This is a series of animation created by the school to bring Math alive. Big K couldn't stop talking about FOXX and Teacher Robber when she came home. 

The students were given a workbook each week. There were a total of 4 for this topic on Substitution. Substitution to be taught at a K2 level? How? What? Don't be crazy! Yup, those were my exact questions running across my mind. However, our teacher, Teacher Hajar ensured us that they have a method which will successfully teach these 6year olds the concept of substitution. Not only that, at the end of this module, the child will be able to solve a Primary 3 substitution question from a renowned school! WOW! I had to see this for myself!

They did not dive straight into the subject matter. In fact, students are not even aware of the topic they are learning. They are not frightened off by a large jargon called Substitution. They made use of a very gentle approach of replacing their names with something else. Like a nickname. This sent the children laughing as they came up with the weirdest names for themselves. Unknowingly, they are learning substitution.

I was initially worried that Big K wasn't able to adapt well because Math simply wasn't her favourite subject. However, I was so glad to see that she was all smiles during and after class. Teacher plays a very important role and I could feel the genuine passion Teacher Hajar and her team has for the students. In fact, during the course of the week, she would constantly ask me when were we going for that "interesting Math class".  Kids don't lie so the session must have really been engaging. After 4 weeks of training, she was indeed able to solve a proper Primary School Substitution question! I was sold!

They provide two progarms:

The EMM Math Intelligence Program is for 3-6 years old. A total of 47 weeks (1.5hours per session) will be spent in assisting the child in their numeracy skills mastery, cognitive skills development and Investigative tasking. The class size is kept small with 1 teacher to 6 students. If the number of students stretches to 10, there will be an assistant teacher in class. 

There is another program called the EMM SUPO (Step up to Primary One) Program, aimed at 6year olds, to prepare them for Primary one. This highly engaging course spans across 28 weeks (1.5hours per session). It is based on Singapore Math Curriculum and focuses on building the foundation for core Math concepts which your child needs to know in order to excel and love Math. As with the other program, the teacher-student ratio is 1:6. This program is great should you realise that time is no longer on your side. 

Some activities to exercise those neurons connecting the right and left brain. At this age, it is critical to "open" their minds.

At the end of each module, students are typically given investigative tasks. This is a mini test to see how much the child has learnt. But of cause, they do not call it a TEST! That's too big a word for a pre-schooler. What I particularly like about the sessions is that after a lesson, the teacher will recap what was done for the day and let the parents know how they could follow through at home. There would be a 15minutes debrief session each time. Students also have to complete some homework. Big K was so enthusiastic, she brought it out the moment we reached home! I had to tell her it was only next week that she needed to hand in. But, nope, she didn't want to stop and she completed the homework on her own, confidently without whining that she wasn't able to do! I really loved how the school managed to rekindle her love for the subject!

Games like number bingo are created to bring in the element of fun.

To teach the concept of 'more than and less than', the team has come up with tools like the alligator as well as a story to help students understand the concept. In future, they will not be a stranger to the signs < and >.

A number spiral to help students with their addition or subtraction of big numbers. Kindof like a number line except that it looks far more appealing!

Blocks and playdoh being used in teaching what the educators know as the "assumption method". Of course the little ones aren't told the name of this method, but they are subtly being introduced to this method which is taught probably at a Primary 3 level. In some schools, only the better classes or those under the Math Olympiad programme would be taught this method of solving "Guess and Check questions". Making use of Play-doh is just so smart as which child wouldn't like Play-Doh right?

I totally ditto that!

The school has tied up with SAMSUNG and incorporated Virtual reality into their lessons as well. A first in Singapore. This segment is to teach children concepts like direction, distance and symmetry. Things which if we were to only teach using textbooks, would be dry and difficult to comprehend for the child. I am usually rather adverse with exposing children to technology. I have seen several places incorporating computer literacy at a young age. Too young I feel. However, virtual reality I LIKE! It's a really cool experience. Big K had a lot of fun trying on the glasses. I had a go too but felt a little giddy :P. Later on, she was asked to select the rock or tree which she had seen in the scene. This trains her memory as well as visual discrimination skills. The child will also be given a treasure map which has all the landmarks as seen through the VR glasses. This, together with a "footprint ruler" is used to educate the child on distance. Clever isn't it?

I thoroughly enjoyed the program. It spurs critical thinking and strengthens my child's foundation. More importantly, she has now developed a greater interest and passion in Math. Through a child's smile, you can tell whether the program is successful. Their smiles and enthusiasm are genuine and the best indication! Big K was very disappointed that the program ended and had been urging me to bring her back. Thank you Early Math Matters and Teacher Hajar for reigniting the spark in my little one and helping her to transit from kindergarten to Primary school with greater ease. 

Early Math Matters' monthly program is priced at $320 per month for weekdays and $360 for weekends. This does not include materials, registration fees and deposit.


From now till 31 Dec 2017, quote JANICE30 for a $30 off per month for their programmes. Trust me on this, they are really good!

If you are serious in letting your preschoolers have a headstart, do check them out here or on FB or speak to their consultants at +65 6384 0797

Disclaimer: We were given a complimentary lessons for the purpose of this review. No additional monetary compensation was received. All opinions expressed are entirely my own and written according to my experience in using the products/ services.

Review: P1 preparation workshop with Learners Ed

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Media Invite:: In a blink of an eye, Big K will be entering a new phase of her life— Primary school. I am still in denial. Is this petite girl measuring 105cm really going into Primary school? Is she ready? Reality sunk in a little when we did our nerve-wrecking primary one registration in July. But i am still rather chill on the acadmic front. While other kids her age attended enrichments after enrichments, i harbour ambitious thoughts on teaching her on my own. I still do. However, work takes up a lot of my time and when i do things with her, very often they are fun stuff instead of drills.

When LearnersEd invited us for their pilot P1 preparation workshop, I figured it would be a good chance for both of us to learn more about the Primary 1 syllabus. Big K’s nemesis has always been Math. Each time i try to incorporate it into our learnings, she would dread it and moan in agony. Sorry baby, moving forward, it ain’t gonna be all fun and games. 

Day 1

Our facilitator, Teacher Jenn, tried to make it as entertaining as possible with stories and songs. With her vast experience in coaching, she gave us loads of insights to the Primary World. Being a mom herself, she has seen through her boy’s success in getting through GEP and understands the challenges. She was hence able to share with us some tried and tested ways she used on her son AJ. Learning from her was indeed an honour. Teacher Jenn also teaches the P1 and P2 classes weekly over at Learners Ed. Given my background, I was no stranger to the bits on what P1 encompasses. However, it was a great wake up call for me! A kick in the butt to remind me how unprepared we are and that time is zipping by! I am constantly in denial that my child will get there eventually. Yes, they will, but we as parents have got to set the foundation right without falling into the trap of hot housing them hence killing their interest in learning. I have been so tied up with work that whenever i have a chance to do some homelearning with Big K, I try not to do something she dislikes - in this case, Math! Her Achilles heels.

As much as I’d love to be a Tigermom, I know this will strain our relationship and shudder at the thought that my children has to continuously study and not have fun. When Jenn shared with us that if your child is unable to score more than 90 marks in P1, it means that your foundation isn’t strong, it got me really worried. We should beef up foundation as things may get more stressful financially as we progress higher. It is for that reason that being kiasu is ok!

The workshop was quite challenging for us. Not because of its contents but, we weren’t morning people. I had to drag both Ks out of bed. It wasn’t that early but we just aren't early risers. I had to bring Small K along as papa wasn't in town and I was solo-parenting. Thankfully, Learners Ed was very accommodating and allowed Small K to sit in. He was a very good boy throughout as I prepared loads to entertain. Day one was primarily an introduction for the parents so Big K wasn't too keen. Her engine hadn't started when Jenn tried introducing "what makes 10". She is familiar with this but well, her engine just wasn't cranked up. Not until Jenn brought up her treats! She sure knows what makes little children tick. Jenn highlighted that it is necessary for us to wean the little ones off finger counting as it will slow things down when they are in Primary school. She shared with us several Math hacks which we could practise even on the go. Like visualising the concept of multiplication while shopping at the supermarket. Teacher Jenn also shared with us several story books which we could use to incorporate into our Math learnings. 

Day 2 & 3

Things got better as Big K probably understood what was required of her and decided to coroporate. It did help that Jenn prepared treats for the kids for every correct answer given. Even Small K received a treat and was beaming from ear to ear. Some of the topics covered were doubles ( eg. 2+2 and 5+5 etc) and money. Manipulatives like the golden beads as well as coins were used to spice things up. I really appreciated that the coins were washed and sanitized! How thoughtful! 

It is really essential for us to equip ourselves with the relevant knowledge before we enter Primary School. At least we won't be in for a shock.  Here's sharing a testimonial from a personal friend PC whose daughter had been attending their P6 classes:
"What to do? Girl wasn't doing well in Math. Any recommendation which came, I had to try. And this teacher from LearnersEd is AMAZING! She rescued my girl!"
Learners Ed specializes in Mathematics from primary to secondary levels. Their class size is kept small with a maximum of 6, to ensure focus. Led by Ms Hannah together with her team of teachers, Learners Ed has been established since 2015. Even though they focus on Math, they also hold hands-on experiential activities such as Slime workshop and the P1 Prep workshop from time to time to make learning fun and practical. To find out more about their workshops, do check them out on Facebook as well as Instagram

Here's one last goodie for you,
Learners Ed is offering 20% off first month fees from 1 October 17 to 31 March 2018. Quote MMM and Sign up today! It really pays to be a little Kiasu!

 Disclaimer: We were invited for the P1 preparation workshop for the purpose of this review. No additional monetary compensation was received. All opinions expressed are entirely my own and written according to my experience in using the products/ services.

Review: The Very Hungry Caterpillar & Other Eric Carle's Favourites

Saturday, October 7, 2017

We loveeeeeee Eric Carle! You can see from our stash and this is only part of it. We had the pleasure to attend ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar & other Eric Carle Favourites’ by Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia, Canada, presented by ACT 3 International yesterday. The kids were very excited but didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t either.

Photo credit: Mermaid Theatre

Photo credit: Mermaid Theatre

The show started with Little Cloud which had beautifully painted props! How amazing that a couple of cardboards could be transformed to something so magical. Big K could not help but go oooooo ahhhhhh each time the little cloud morphed into a different shape. She exclaimed, “This is awesome!” when the little cloud turned into a clown. The vibrant puppets against the dark background really adds to the vibrancy. Small K was filled with anticipation and asked where the hungry caterpillar was incessantly. He was extremely engaged by every scene.

Photo credit: Mermaid Theatre

Photo credit: Mermaid Theatre

There were three tales being presented -- The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Little Cloud and The Mixed Up Chameleon. I really like The Mixed Up Chameleon and was impressed at how some Tshirts could be transformed into props. More importantly, with all the colour changes, the effort to create these props was immense. Toddlers will be able to associate colours and meanings to objects through the reptile who eventually embraces his uniqueness after an identity crisis happens. Mermaid Theatre's vision mirrors the book's stunning illustrations drawn in thick, brilliant brushstrokes of blues, greens and reds. I really enjoyed the part where the chameleon sticks out his tongue and captures the fly! It was a good show which brought the book to life and made a impact on the kids. Both Big and Small K were able to recall which were the shapes the little cloud transformed into and what food the caterpillar ate. Great right brain exercise! 

After the show, hang around for the Q&A session where the performers may reveal to you the secrets on how the chameleon captures the fly. Or what materials were used to make the fat caterpillar.

This timeless production is the perfect platform to introduce drama to children as it is a captivating showcase of stunning visual effects, innovative shadow puppetry and vibrant music. Within a short span of one hour, little ones will be also enriched by knowledge of science, the arts and even morality -- all inspired by the themes highlighted in the storybook. Both kids and adults alike were entralled by the use of UV lighting, a dark stage, black curtains and fluorescent costumes. "Black light" enables puppets and props to appear on stage as if they are animated on their own. It was really a visual feast!

The show made such an impact on my kids that upon reaching home, Big K dug out our Eric Carle's stash and started reading to her little brother. Caterpillar FTW! These books have so many homelearning opportunities! We could go cloud seeing or have a sensory time by pasting cotton wools on blue construction paper. We could also do a unit on how clouds are formed! I am motivated! You could check out Mermaid Theatre's site for more resources.

This production is only in Singapore for a week till 15 October 2017 at the Victoria Theatre. Highly recommended for children aged between 3 to 6 years old. Hop over to SISTIC to book your tickets now!

Disclaimer: I was given tickets for the purpose of this review. No additional monetary compensation was received. All opinions expressed are entirely my own and written according to my experience in using the products/ services.