A system that guarantees that there will be “no child left behind”—this is the Singapore Ministry of Education’s (MOE) commitment to its citizens, especially to its youth. As it works to fulfil its promise through its compulsory education for primary school students and its diligent curriculum revisions in order to stay abreast with global trends in education and recent discoveries in various fields of study, Singapore proves that its education system is one that leaves no room for any student to get left behind. With a world-renowned method of teaching mathematics known internationally as “Singapore Math,” Math has long ceased being a mere academic concern in progressive Singapore. Rather, it has become part of daily life for children and adults alike, with academic approach to math becoming more and more about getting students to think like mathematicians—which means less formulae and rote memorization but more critical thinking and practical application that will make mathematics useful not only in classrooms but in daily life as well.
Given that Math is not only necessary for students to complete school but for them to grow up and become successful adults, parents should know what their Math goals are for their children. As a parent, do you only want your child to be able to keep up with Math lessons, or to get ahead of the class? Do you simply want him to pass exams, or to ace them? Do you just want him to “learn the basics” or do you want him to excel? And if you do, is it because you want him to be number one in class, to compete in an Olympiad, to get to university, or to simply equip him for life as an adult, wherein everyday living will always involve Math?
Whatever your answer is, we hope that you as a parent take the time to answer and figure out your Math goals for your child as we here at iMath help you ponder on yet another supplementary Math education for your child: Enrichment.
What is Enrichment?
Enrichment, from the word “enrich” which means to “improve the quality of or to make better,” in education means improving the quality of learning by making a subject more interesting or rewarding for a child. Enrichment centres—through their own developed programmes and syllabus, instructors, and learning materials—have tons of methods and techniques to make learning personally meaningful for any child.
There are two types of enrichment: academic and non-academic. Academic enrichment programmes work to aid the learning of subjects taught in schools by combining educational components with fun and interesting activities that may or may not be directly about the subject being learned. This technique, called “stealth learning,” is a key concept in enrichment and occurs when students are fully engaged in an activity that may not seem educational to them but is in fact helping them learn or master a skill or concept. Examples of academic enrichment programmes are speech and drama classes for Languages, science workshops for Sciences, and Mathematics enrichment. Although academic in nature, these enrichment classes aim to extend beyond what is taught in the school curricula to spark a child’s creative interest.
On the other hand, non-academic enrichment includes learning about arts, crafts-making, music, dance, sports, cooking or baking, painting or drawing, or digital media such as animation and photography. Between academic and non-academic enrichment, the former is more popular in Singapore.
Enrichment encourages self-directed learning, exploratory learning, and creative thinking especially among young children. It is highly student-centred as it is based on your child's current knowledge, skills, and abilities (that is why all enrichment centres or programmes require initial assessment of your child). Its classes are usually carried out in a fun and less structured manner, and uses materials that develop your child’s ability to work independently. And although it gives your child more space to learn on his own, it is very involved in that it gives direct and immediate feedback to your child while letting him work alone, only offering guidance when it is necessary.
What enrichment does is it allows a child to make sense of a topic or subject on his own terms. It is trusting that the child will relate to a subject because it is something that interests him, like dance or sports, or it is something that is innate to him, like knowledge of language or numbers. Once a child is able to relate to a subject and is confident that what he is learning is something that is interesting or meaningful to him, then a child can be expected to learn faster and better.
This idea can be laid in contrast to the classic classroom conundrum of a student complaining about his inability to “understand” a lesson even when he has paid attention to the lecture. One reason could be that he cannot relate to the lesson or find “personal meaning” in it—perhaps because it does not interest him, or he does not realize its practical importance, or simply because he was told early on to just “pass” the test or the subject without being given an explanation as to why he needs to. Whatever the reason is, a child failing to see the importance of a lesson or a subject while being forced to pass it can be a dangerous thing as it can lead to rote learning, or worse, cheating to make grades or academic standing look favourable.
How is it different from tuition?
In Singapore where tuition has become part of the norm—thanks to a competitive education system that consistently puts its students on top of global academic rankings—tuition has become the go-to solution of parents and students when faced with challenges in school. Because of its benefits in helping students pass or even ace difficult exams, it can seem like tuition is always a good idea. And why not—all kinds of tuition out there, be it group, private, or online, were created to reinforce students’ understanding of lessons taught in school and to assist them to do well on homework and assessments with the end goal of making them pass the subject.
However, as much as tuition is beneficial, its downside lies right at its vantage point: that it is most helpful only when a child needs urgent help, say in his homework or preparing for an upcoming exam, but not so much in cultivating a continuous genuine interest for challenging subjects like Math. This is why parents who want to create life-long learners of mathematics or other subjects turn to enrichment rather than tuition.
How can my child benefit from enrichment?
Most students complain of struggles to keep up in class. Popular notion tells us that students who lag behind in school, despite paying attention and performing their best, are the only ones who need “help.” However, parents would be surprised to find out that there are students out there whose challenge is the opposite.
Unbeknownst to many, enrichment can be especially beneficial to children who complain about school being “boring.” These are usually “advanced” students who find class lessons being taught at a pace that is too slow or feels that classroom activities are not stimulating enough, causing them to feel a lack of challenge. This leads to inattention and inability to relate to the lesson being taught, regardless of their capacity to understand it. Although “advanced” in learning, these students find themselves uninterested in working and participating in class—a clear cause for their grades to drop.
Because enrichment is a specialized programme that allows children to learn at their own pace—whether it is at a level that is lower or higher than their current school level—it can benefit both “behind” and “advanced” students. For students who find that their level of learning is lower than the school level they are enrolled in (say, they are in P3 but their knowledge of Math is mostly at P2), enrichment allows them to start with activities that they are most comfortable with and then work their way up. It lets them see themselves progressing, something that they may not readily recognize in a classroom setting.
What are my child’s options?
- Contact: +65 66358368
- Address: Blk 203 Hougang Street 21 #04-93 / Blk 811 Jurong West Street 81
Eye Level Learning Centre’s (known in Singapore as E.nopi) math enrichment programmes include classes for preschoolers called Play Math and Eye Level Math for graders. Play Math is a program for preschoolers aged 3-5 years old, while Eye Level Math is for primary school children aged 5-14 years old. The latter is made up of two concepts: Basic Thinking Math to help students master mathematics foundation and Critical Thinking Math which helps develop problem-solving and reasoning skills.
- Contact: 64556696 (Depending on the centre)
- Address: 11 Sin Ming Road #B1-13 Thomson V Two (There are over 80 centres in SG)
With over 4 million students in more than 50 countries and regions, Kumon’s Math programme is suitable for any student—from the beginner to the advanced one—because of its highly-individualised design that can empower students to learn at any age, starting with content and at a pace they are most comfortable with.
3. Math Monkey
- Contact: +65 6635 6395 / +65 6356 9384
- Address: 148A East Coast Road / 1 Goldhill Plaza, Podium Block #02-05
Math Monkey uses Vedic Mathematics at its core and integrates it with fun and interactive activities to ensure that children achieve proficiency with numbers from preschool and throughout the primary school levels. The goal of its programmes is to gauge student’s current level and to build upon it through their distinctive math teaching strategies.
4. Maths Hub
- Contact: + 65 6281 1321 / 6281 1787
- Address: Blk 221 Hougang St 21 #B1-68 (They have 5 centres)
Maths Hub is an enrichment centre that offers different math programmes depending on your child's needs: Fusion Math, a programme that aims to develop math skills beyond curriculum requirements; School Syllabus, a math programme for primary and secondary school students; and IQ Mathematics, an approach to instil practical math knowledge among young children.
5. MPM Math
- Contact: (65) 6253 8260
- Address: 10 Bukit Batok Crescent #06-04, The Spire Singapore
MPM, which stands for Multi-Process and Multi-Model, offers a programme for children as early as 2 years old to train them in mathematical concepts and calculation skills while exploring problem solving skills. Its approach is to encourage children to look at math with a positive self-learning attitude.
- Contact: 9650 9651
- Address: 1 Marine Parade Central #04-01 Parkway Centre (Has over 10 centres in SG)
The S.A.M Approach to Mathematics is a combination of worksheets-based self-learning and classroom-based guidance and coaching designed to introduce new concepts in incremental steps to make learning easier. The centre offers classes for children as young as 2 years old and primary school-age children to help them start early with math learning.
iMath is an online learning community focused on Mathematics. As an enrichment option, it uses digital technology to provide enrichment opportunities to children who may not have access to enrichment centres due to schedule or location issues. No more spending time in traffic, driving off to an enrichment centre, confused over which schedule would fit yours and your child’s. With iMath's caring community of math experts and enthusiasts, parents and students can expect to find an approach similar to enrichment centres from the comfort of their home, at their preferred schedules, with affordable rates. iMath aims to help your child make confident strides in math so he will not only learn it for the sake of "passing exams" but instead, master it for a life-long learning. iMath can help ensure that your child's math foundation will equip him for success in school and in life. Discover a math enrichment option that not only takes your child abilities into account, but also works around your location and schedule concerns as a parent—download the iMath app today!
This article was written by Louise O. Lopez