Math is notoriously difficult in Singapore and that has gotten it consistent backlash from parents and students alike. In fact, the recent 2019 Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) mathematics paper has left students in tears, resulting in many parents taking to social media to vent their displeasures online. This is not the first time challenging questions in the PSLE exam have reduced students to tears, and is also definitely not the first time parents are complaining. If you have a young one going to school, such news might be distressing and worrying, and you definitely want your child to be prepared to tackle the difficult questions in the exams. After all, we do not want to see our own children struggling and walking out of the exam hall in tears because they find themselves unable to tackle these tricky sums. As parents, we all definitely want to give the best to our children and help them in succeeding in the tough environment out there today.
Math in Singapore
Before we go into how you can help your child to succeed in math, let us dive into what exactly math is like in Singapore so that you can have a better idea of what your child is learning in school.
What many of us might not know is that the Singapore math curriculum has been specially designed by curriculum specialists over the years. Back in 1982, a special method of teaching math was developed under the Ministry of Education, targeted towards students in primary school. Before that, the primary schools in Singapore borrowed teaching methods and textbooks from other countries. The curriculum planners in Singapore turned this around by developing a whole new approach to teaching math to young children. By focusing on moving away from simple memorisation to honing the problem solving skills of the students, the new series of textbooks embodying this new approach towards teaching math was developed. This new approach drew inspiration from world renowned education psychologists such as Jerome Bruner, who claims that learning occurs in three stages— from the use of real objects, to pictures, and finally to symbols. Such thinking characterised the development of Singapore’s unique math curriculum, where the use of visual aids to model math problems dominated the new teaching approach.
Compared to the math curriculum in other countries, the newly developed Singapore math curriculum covers fewer topics in more depth. The emphasis on the depth of understanding of the students instead of trying to cover as many different aspects of math is key to the effectiveness of the approach, as it starts children off with thinking like a mathematician from a young age. In fact, so successful was this new curriculum that today, Singaporean students dominate the international rankings when it comes to mathematics proficiency. This success has caught the attention of countries all around the world, who have started to look into the Singaporean math model as well as adopting it into their national math curriculum. In fact, 10 countries, which includes the Netherlands and Brunei, are using textbooks based on the Singaporean math model. These textbooks are based on the My Pals Are Here! Math textbooks that are used in Singaporean schools. If you have a child who has gone through primary school, this definitely will not be an unfamiliar name to you.
As Singaporeans, we should all be proud that the Singapore math curriculum has received such roaring reception in other countries, but at the same time, we cannot help but worry as parents with the increasing difficulty of math that is taught in schools. As a result of the competitive scene in school and the fear many parents have of their child losing out, math tuition is now almost an indispensable of a Singaporean student’s life. Tuition is a great way for students to keep up with their schoolwork, especially if they are lagging behind. After all, if everyone else has their children sent for math tuition, you definitely do not want your child to be disadvantaged by not sending him to one too.
The tuition scene in Singapore
Singapore has a thriving tuition scene, fuelled by many anxious parents who want to give the best to their children in order to maximise their chances of success later on in life. With tuition centres popping up by the dozen, you really are spoilt for choice as a parent in Singapore looking for tuition services to enrol your child into. When we speak of tuition, I am pretty sure that the first thing that pops to mind is the traditional tuition centre, where students go down to physical tuition centres for their weekly enrichment lessons with a tutor. After all, that is the most common form of tuition in Singapore, and we are all used to this form of tuition. Another form of tuition that might come to mind is the home tuition model, where a home tutor is scheduled to come to your house to provide one on one tutoring for your children. However, you might not have heard of this newer concept in the market— online tuition, which has caught on in the more recent years.
What is online tuition
If you have not heard of online tuition before, you might be puzzled by this term. After all, we are all so used to the concept of the tuition centre, so what exactly is online tuition, and how does it work? If you are confused by all of this, read on, as we will be giving you a detailed explanation of what online tuition is all about, as well as an in depth analysis of whether you should sign your child up for it.
As its name suggests, online tuition is tuition that is conducted online. Of course, that can mean many things, but currently, online tuition typically exists in two main forms— pre-recorded video lessons, or interactive live video sessions with a tutor.
It is important to distinguish this two forms of online tuition, because they are unique and serve different needs. Pre-recorded video lessons are lessons that are planned by a tutor beforehand, and recorded along with visual aids, such as a screen whiteboard function. This form of online tuition is more like watching a teacher giving a lecture on a specific topic, and can be helpful in introducing or revising a specific mathematics topic. However, these pre-recorded video lessons are not interactive, and your child will not have the option of asking the tutor specific questions to clarify any concepts that he is struggling with. This is contrasted to the other form of online tuition— interactive live video sessions with a tutor. In such a setup, your child essentially gets to go for one on one tuition through the computer. A tutor will connect with your child via a video call, and the tutoring will be done through this online platform. Besides being online, this really is not much different from the traditional home tuition that you might be more familiar with, as your child will still be able to ask the tutor questions and focus on the areas that he is less confident in.
Online tuition compared to traditional tuition
Now that we all have a better idea of what online tuition is, you might be wondering if online tuition will be the right choice for you and your child. If you are currently mulling over what tuition option will be the best for you, we are here to help with a breakdown of the pros and cons of these different tuition methods.
1. The convenience factor
Sending your child for tuition is a commitment, not only for your child, but as parents too. Scheduling tuition sessions at a traditional tuition centre can be a tricky task as you will have to make sure that the timing works for both your child’s schedule as well as your own schedule. Today, students often have a packed schedule filled with after school activities and enrichment lessons, making it hard to find time to pack in that extra math tuition lesson. Besides that, if you are a double income family, and both you and your spouse work the typical office job, you might also find it hard to find the time to send your child for tuition lessons held at tuition centres. The best tutors might be located at tuition centres far away from where you live, so the time spent travelling to and fro can really add up without you even noticing. Even if you arrange for a home tutor, most parents will want to be at home too during the one on one tuition session in order to make sure that your child is safe. The time you have on the weekends are limited, especially if you want to squeeze in some family time to bond with your children. However, weekday tuition lessons are also a challenge to schedule as you will only be available to send your child to these lessons after work. Having tuition lessons late at night might eat into your child’s homework time, and by that time of the day, your child might already be feeling sleepy and less able to focus in the lessons.
With online tuition, these problems are kept at bay, because you will find yourself saving a lot of time travelling to bring your child from one tuition centre to another. Besides that, there is also the option of your child having these lessons even when you are not at home to supervise the lessons. If you are worried about not being able to keep update with your child’s progress in the lessons or about the overall quality of the lessons, most online tuition models will also allow the online lesson to be recorded. You can always catch up on how the lesson went when you are free by watching these recordings. With the extra time saved and the scheduling problems far away from your mind, you will definitely have more time to bond and have fun with your child! After all, these moments are valuable, and you will really want to cherish these moments when your child is still young.
2. Revisiting lessons
If your child often finds it hard to get certain trickier mathematics concepts at his first try, online tuition might be a great option to consider. Most online tuition services allow the online video lessons to be recorded or replayed after the lesson ends. This way, your child will be able to revisit these concepts whenever he has the time, or for a quick refresher when it is no longer as fresh in his head. Repeated exposure is key to learning, and with this function, your child will be able to remember these concepts more thoroughly. This feature is especially useful when your child is trying to revise for his exams, as he can skip to the parts that he is less familiar with and have the tutor explain the concepts to him again. This is contrasted to the traditional tuition sessions, where the tutor explains a concept during the lesson, but cannot be revisited later.
The problem really shows if you send your child for group tuition lessons. In these tuition sessions, the tutor will have to pace the lesson to make sure that it benefits majority of the students there. If your child is particularly struggling with a specific math topic or concept, it might be hard for the tutor to give one on one attention and time to help your child through the parts that he does not understand. This is an especially important factor to consider as math is a subject that builds on concepts, and not fully understanding a specific concept might mean that your child continues to struggle with grasping the other more advanced and complex concepts ahead.
3. Keeping up with the times and making sure your child is ready for the digital world
E-learning is a huge thing in schools today. With computers and other technological devices being increasingly integrated into the lessons in school, students are often used to working on these technological devices for learning. We live in a world that is increasingly reliant on technology, and IT skills are now valuable and highly sought after in society. By increasing your child’s exposure to technology and getting him used to learning using these technological tools, you really are getting him more prepared for today’s rapidly advancing world.
There is the misconception out there that increasing your child’s time spent on technological devices is necessarily a bad thing. With schools embracing technological devices as learning tools, it really is time for us to change such an antiquated way of thinking too. Computers, iPads and smartphones are all simply devices that are not inherently bad, and when utilised correctly can be great tools to help your child expand his learning. By looking at these devices as learning devices, and from helping your child to form connections between learning and technological devices from a young age, you will definitely help your child to use these technological devices more responsibly and learn even more in his tutoring lessons.
4. The need for discipline
The use of a technological device for online tuition can have the downside of providing your child with added distractions. After all, online games, messaging tools and video platforms are all accessible using the technological device, which can cause your child’s attention to stray away from the actual tuition lessons. This is a greater problem for the pre-recorded video lessons, as your child will not be directly interacting with a tutor but just watching the video recording. However, this is not a huge concern if you opt for the online live video tuition sessions, as the tutor interacting with your child via the video platform will make sure that your child remains engaged and learning throughout the entire session.
Besides that, there are child monitoring tools available on the market that will allow you to monitor your child’s usage of these technological devices, so they are always available to install if you are still worried about your child using these technological devices for games or other forms of entertainment. Otherwise, this will be a good opportunity for you to give your child some lessons on responsibility and accountability. Making sure that your child understands these core values from young is important, and you can definitely take this as an opportunity to build these valuable character traits in your child.
Of course, if you have a child who is more hyperactive or whose attention is easy to lose, face to face tuition might be a better option because it will be easier to engage with your child in person. Otherwise, online tuition is a great thing to try out!
5. When your child needs last minute help
With physical tuition lessons, it can be hard for your child to get immediate help with his homework or difficult concepts right before his examinations. Tuition sessions have to be pre-scheduled in advanced so that the tutor has sufficient time to travel to your place or to make sure that the tutor does not have other prior commitments. With online tuition travelling time is cut down, and you can easily arrange for a short online video lesson with the tutor from the comfort of home. This is especially useful if you have long forgotten how to tackle these math problems, or are simply too busy with your day job to help your child. Now, when your child is stuck with a particularly challenging math problem in his homework, you can easily connect with tutors online to give your child the help he needs. It can be frustrating when you are unable to tackle a math sum yourself, and this additional help can really give your child that extra boost in his understanding of mathematics concepts.
When your child’s examinations near, he might require more help than usual to make sure that he is well prepared for the tough papers that school teachers are setting today. Online tuition will allow your child to connect quickly to professionals who can help your child with any last minute questions that he has before the big day.
6. The personal touch
Many of us are sceptical about online interaction, because they lack a personal touch. However, with technological advancements, live online video tutoring sessions can really just feel like the tutor is right there with your child. Whiteboard writing features are available on most online tutoring platforms, allowing the tutor to easily illustrate concepts using diagrams and symbols. Video quality has improved significantly over time, and you can really see the tutor in high definition on camera. While pre-recorded online video lessons might lack the personal touch and interaction you want from a tutor, this really is not a problem if you are engaging a tutor to conduct live video tuition lessons for your child. So if you are still worried about online tuition lacking the personal touch, fret not, because with advancements in technology it will really feel like the tutor is right there sitting next to your child.
Is online tuition right for you and your child?
With so many forms of tuition out there, online tuition is definitely a new contender that comes with so many benefits. However, online tuition might not be for all, so we hope that the pros and cons we listed out above will help you in deciding whether to try it out. If you have a jam packed schedule, are always rushing about, and want your child to embrace technology for learning, online tuition is a great option for you!
If you are seriously considering getting online math tuition for your child, the next question that pops up in your head is probably, where should you start looking? What are the online math tuition options out there today, and which ones are the best for your child? If you are thinking about signing your child up for online math tuition, iMath is one of the best options out there today, and with its free app, there is really no harm just downloading the app to try it out!
Trying out online tuition at iMath
iMath is an online learning community that is focused on math. Their main online tutoring service is the online live video sessions that you can book with a tutor to conduct a one on one video tutoring session with your child. Many of these tutors are Singapore based and have experience teaching the Singapore math curriculum, so do not worry about their teaching abilities. The video sessions can also be recorded, and these recordings include any writing on the Whiteboard function on the platform. The Whiteboard function is like an online whiteboard, which will allow the tutor to draw out any pictorial representations and diagrams that can help your child to better understand the challenging concepts in math. These recordings can also be viewed by you after your child has completed his online tuition sessions, allowing you to track your child’s learning and making sure that the tutor is providing quality teaching advice and guidance.
However, iMath is not only limited to online tuition lessons. The iMath app has a built in community wall, which allows your child to take a picture of any math questions that he is struggling with and post it on the community wall. Users using the platform will be able to see these posted math questions and provide their answers to these questions. Besides that, your child can also look through the community wall and view the math questions that are posted by others. Your child can attempt to tackle these other questions and post a reply to them too, exposing your child to a wider variety of different questions that will help when facing unfamiliar math problems in the exams. This can really give your child that little extra edge over his classmates in his tests in school. Besides that, by creating an interactive platform for your child to explore math questions and solutions in, your child will be kept more engaged and perhaps even excited to tackle these math problems that are posted on the community wall. By building an entire learning community, your child can feel supported throughout his math learning journey, and have fun with it too!
For all you busy parents out there, the iMath app is also great in keeping you updated with when your child’s online tutoring sessions are scheduled. The confirmed online tuition sessions are featured as a reminder and are all displayed together on the iMath app, allowing you to see all of your sessions at a glance. This function can be a lifesaver when you are trying to balance your child’s numerous enrichment lessons and your own job schedule. With this, you can be sure that you will not miss another tuition session again!
Besides that, with iMath, you will never have to worry about your child’s last minute questions again. If your child finds himself stuck with a concept that is particularly hard to understand, or a question in his homework, you can get immediate help by arranging a 30 minute one to one video call session with any available tutor. This means that even if your child’s regular tutor on iMath is unavailable at that time, you can rely on all the other tutors on the platform for any additional last minute help that your child needs. This is definitely a feature that you will be thankful for when your child’s exams are nearing and he just needs that little extra help the day before his test!
If you are interested to find out more about iMath, the app is free for all to download! The community wall can be accessed without a fee too, and you can really just try it out with arranging a short 30 minute video tuition session with a tutor. We are sure that you will find what you and your child need on the iMath platform!