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.