Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Prepping for P1: Comparison of Popular Maths Enrichment Classes in Singapore

It is the Primary 1 registration period in Singapore now and I've been following the news on this topic lately since Lil Pumpkin is going to register next year. I've also started going into the Kiasuparents forum to read up more on other people's experiences on registering their child, and how they get their kids prepared for entry into our formal schooling system.

Kiasuparents is like a scabby wound. You know you're not supposed to keep picking at it {i.e keep reading the forum} since it'll cause you more stress, or even distress, but you just can't help it :P

I've been thinking of sending Lil Pumpkin to Math enrichment classes to improve her math skills. Her answers are very "creative" but frankly, I think her teachers won't appreciate it haha

I'd like to be one of those parents that come up with their own fabulous worksheets and games to home-school Lil Pumpkin as well but as a full-time working parent, that is simply not possible without me losing my sanity. It's not just that I don't have the time, it's also because I understand I don't have the skills and patience. Looking at some of the primary school maths problems nowadays, it looks very different from how we used to learn it in school. Everybody has their own limits, and I know mine.

I'm worried that Lil Pumpkin may not be able to catch up with her class in Primary 1 and feel some sort of "culture shock" and stress since currently, we don't emphasize on her doing any structured studies at home. So, we'd like to start early and build her foundation, slow and steady, then let her feel the need to rush and catch up.

That's how we felt when we enrolled her in her Chinese enrichment class too. It was a good move as now she can at least understand, and communicate simply in Chinese. She can recognise a lot of Chinese words too and best part is, Lil Pumpkin is interested to learn more!

Choosing a Chinese enrichment class was pretty easy for us. We didn't really research much into it, and chose her school because it seemed pretty reputable, we liked their curriculum plus they had a convenient location / class time for us so we enrolled her in one without much fuss early in Nursery 2.

I thought it'd be as easy for choosing a Maths enrichment class as well. My colleague's daughter is learning CMA and Kumon is a pretty popular choice. So I thought it's just between these 2. Easy peasy. And then I started to check it out in Kiasuparents and realised there's many more choices!!! Arrrgggghhh!!

I spent about 2-3 days reading through all the forum threads, researching other online sources and calling the centres. It's not so much that I want to look for the best one, because I don't think there really is one... only one that suits your child the best. What we want for Lil Pumpkin is to make Maths-learning fun for her, and to get the ball rolling on building her strong foundation and good study habits in Maths. Like how we did for her Chinese.

Admittedly, some parents start their kids on enrichment programs early because they want their kids to be the top scorers in school. However, most, like us, join these programs because they have no time to come up with the materials at home and still want their child to learn more and follow some sort of structure.

I still believe in letting her enjoy her childhood, but maybe I am a kiasu parent, after all :P

Here's what I found for my own reference, and for others who may find it useful. It's not my own personal experience so I cannot vouch for some of the comments I've featured. Details for each enrichment class are gathered from information online and from calling the various centers.

Of course there are more choices than what I've listed here, but these seem the most talked-about now. All information is correct at the time of this post, but feel free to contact me if anything needs updating.

Kumon Singapore Website: http://sg.kumonglobal.com/

Method Origin: Japan

Diagnostic test: Yes (15-20mins test + 30 mins discussion} Starting level 7A, age 3.

Method: Individualised learning method and drilling concepts through worksheets. Teachers are just facilitators, and students have to keep doing worksheets until they get the correct answers, within a certain time frame. The worksheets have been designed in a way that allows students to figure out how to solve the problems on their own. Examples and explanations are clearly provided when moving into new topic areas, encouraging students to self-learn and advance independently at all times.

Kumon methods emphasis on speed and accuracy which are achieved through repetitive practices. There is a small amount of homework everyday. Students get to keep completed booklets.

Follow MOE syllabus: No

Duration: 2x/week, 30-45mins/class

Homework: Yes {about 30mins daily, 1 day off/week}

Centres: Easily available island-wide

Class size: No maximum, depends on classroom size 

Deposit: No

Registration fee: S$40 {inclusive of GST}

Monthly fee: S$140 / subject per 8 lessons

*Note: E.nopi {currently known as Eye Level Learning} is very similar to Kumon.

MPM Singapore Website: http://sg.mpmmath.com/

Method Origin: USA?

Diagnostic test: Yes, ideal starting age 5-8

Method: A well-sequenced math program designed around the concepts of Multi-Process and Multi-Model mathematics. MPM is a self-learning system personalized for each student. Through the PSL (Personalized System of Learning) approach ie teachers are just facilitatos, MPM students optimize their learning independently, with minimal guidance from the instructor. Designed for preschoolers to P6.

A mum said "2 books to complete each week (the booklets are very colourful, compared to Kumon). You can take 1 book in a day (classes 2x/week) or 2 books in a day (classes 1x/week). Student have to complete about 9 pages in each booklet in the centre (with teacher guidence) and the next 9 pages have to be completed at home. Then submit the booklets the following week. Do not mark the booklets as the teacher will do it so that they know how are the kids performing and correction have to be done on the spot."

Do note that students cannot keep the marked books after completion. 

Follow MOE syllabus: Yes

Duration: 2x/week {1hr} or 1x/week {2hrs} i.e. total 8hrs/month {and 8 books/month}

Homework: Yes

Centres: Easily available island-wide. Some parents recommended Siglap, Parkway, Toa Payoh, Hougang but to avoid Clementi

Class size: 12:1

Deposit: S$50 {refundable upon 1 month withdrawal notice}

Registration fee: S$50 {for test and stationery set}

Trial lesson: No

Monthly fee: *first payment is by term, and subsequently there's a choice to pay by month
$440 per term of 12 weeks or $155 per month {K1 - P1}
$460 per term or $160 per month {P2 - P3}
$500 per term or $175 per month {P4 - P6}

CMA Singapore Website: http://www.cma.edu.sg/

Method Origin: Taiwan {lessons conducted in English}

Diagnostic Test: Yes {45mins - 1hr}, can start from age 3

Method: A pioneer in the Two-hand, Four-finger methodology that has upped the benefits of abacus mental arithmetic to a whole new level. Class lessons conducted with multimedia teaching, memory games, hands-on activities, songs, individual and group challenges.

A mum said "CMA's (abacus) coverage is very narrow. It is only about arithmetic but Math is more than just arithmetic. CMA does not cover Time, Money, Graphs, Mass, Volume etc.... which are topics that primary school students need to learn in school too."

Follow MOE syllabus: No

Duration: 2x/week {1.5hrs} or 1x/week {1.5hrs}

Homework: Yes. At the end of each lesson, child will take home a VCD to review and revise lesson in class. They are also given a password to watch online tutorials.

Centres: Easily available island-wide

Class size: 12:1

Deposit: S$50 {refundable}

Registration fee: S$80 {includes t-shirt, bag, materials}

Trial lesson: S$31

Monthly fee: *8% discount with a current student's referral.
S$310 per term of 10 weeks {for lessons 1x/week}
S$230 per term of 10 lessons {for lessons 2x/week}

JEI Singapore & PSLEMath Website: http://pslemath.com.sg/

Method Origin: JEI- Korea and PSLE Math- Singapore

Diagnostic test: Yes (less an hr), can start from age 4

Method: Students start with JEI until P1. JEI’s comprehensive diagnostic system will analyze each student’s test results and prescribe an individual study program. The individualized learning program is tailored to each student’s needs and abilities and creates the optimal educational environment. Each student learns at his or her own pace so that each new concept and skill is mastered thoroughly before progressing to the next level.

PSLEMath is a Singapore based programme from P2 onwards, done together with JEI. It was first developed jointly with ex-school teachers and PSLE markers. The strength of this programme lies in its systematic method of classifying complex heuristic problem sums in a manner to make learning, understanding and revision more efficient and simple. PSLEMath achieves this by organising the questions first by topics and then further by types. Math problems of the same types have similar approaches and concepts. By structuring its work books in this manner, PSLEMath's work books provide sufficient practice for children to apply their learning several times.

A mum said "looking at the materials for the JEI part, I feel they are much better than enopi or mpm as they are very intensive (looks like 15-20pgs), colorful and a few questions on each page, pictorial yet very relevant to spore syllabus. and the best part is u can bring the materials home, unlike enopi or mpm

For psle math its purely problem sums (cos the basic math is under the JEI bklet) and incorporates heuristics sums."

They also do diagnostic test regularly and can adjust the booklets according to each individual quickly.

Follow MOE syllabus: Yes

Duration: 1x/week, 2hrs

Homework: Yes {about 30mins/week}

Centres: Only at Marine Parade {recommended teacher Jason}, Ang Mo Kio, Bukit Timah, Clementi, Tampines, Bukit Batok

Class size: 6:1

Deposit: S$100 {refundable}

Registration fee: $20

Trial lesson: S$60 for 2hrs{Tampines}, Free {Ang Mo Kio}

Monthly fee:  S$410 per term of 10 weeks

Math Monkey Website: http://www.mathmonkey.com.sg/

Method Origin: India or South Asia

Diagnostic test: Yes (15-30 mins interview - skill assessments & verbal questions)

Method: Based on the philosophy that FUN is the key to learning, Vedic Math concepts are taught using carefully designed games and tools. The Math Monkey Curriculum is the culmination of more than 36 years' of research and teaching experience in Vedic Math of Professor Kenneth Williams. He has been widely regarded as the 'guru' of Vedic Math. He believes that children shouldn't have to rely on a calculator or pencil and paper for something the mind is capable of doing without them.

There are three components to the Math Monkey Programs:
- Use of games in Math Monkey classes: Children are encouraged to think on their toes in order to be able to play the games. As a result, learning occurs and math skills are greatly enhanced.
- Sharpening of concentration and memory skills: Classes are conducted primarily without the use of pencil and paper. This will build mental math ability of the children.
- Continued learning at home through weekly home assignments. These home assignments allow practice between lessons and provide teachers with feedback on the student's retention and progress.

Follow MOE syllabus: Some topics covered

Duration: 1x/week, 1hrs

Homework: Yes

Centres: Only at East Coast Road, Novena, Jurong East

Class size: 6:1

Deposit: No

Registration fee: S$45

Trial lesson: Free

Monthly fee:  S$450 per term of 12 weeks

Overall,  we'd like Lil Pumpkin to attend a class where learning is fun and interactive, and the concepts are explained to her, rather than drilled into her brain. We'd like her to understand the concepts, not just memorise them. Thus, we're leaning towards JEI/PSLE Math or Maths Monkey now.

However, we haven't not fully decided yet as it will also depend on the location and schedule of available classes. Will see how it goes and hopefully enroll her in a class by year's end.

Are your kids attending any Maths enrichment classes now? 
If yes, which one and how do you find it? 
If not, how do you practise Maths with them?

For more of  Lil Pumpkin's Primary School journey:

For tips on P1 preparation:
Good deal to share:

Note: This is not a sponsored or paid post. All views, unless otherwise expressed, are my own.



Walter said...

Interesting review of the different methods. We have recently tried the onsponge method offered by Oodles Learning which isn't too bad. They have coaches to help your kid master her command of the different mathematics methods. A key thing to remember though is to ensure that the instruction method and speed is appropriate for your kid. Otherwise they will experience cognitive dissonance ala stress!

alissa apel said...

Isaak loves math, but hasn't picked up on reading as much as I'd like. Mica is the opposite.

I remember Mica's Kindergarten teacher saying that reading is so important for any other subject. You have to read to do math problems, and so on.

Isaak's Kindergarten teacher said that the way they do math helps them to read. They do it left to write; much like the US reads. It used to be up and down for me. His math is very visual. It's all about showing his work.

We have a few workbooks we have the boys do. Some weeks we do them a lot, while others we don't as much. School will start in about 3 weeks.

Ai Sakura said...

Walter: yup agree since there's not really one best method, just one that suits the child best since everyone is different and likes to learn things differently :)

Alissa: Oh yes the teachers have mentioned that your Eng language has to be strong to work out the maths problem sums too. It's not so simple as learning formulas! Enjoy the rest of the hols with the boys~

Theresa Mahoney said...

I seriously hate our math system here. They have changed it from the way we learned as children and it is so stupid and complicated, parents have no idea how to help their kids with the homework. I get so frustrated when Allison asks for help, I usually tell her to wait until her dad gets home.

We do have Kumon centers here. I have heard really good things about them too!

Masshole Mommy said...

Ditto what Theresa said. It's called Common Core and it's a standardized way to teach country wide - and it's absurd. It makes no sense the way they teach it.

Anonymous said...

So which Maths programme did u send? Mind sharing

Lady Pisces said...

Hi I am also looking into Maths Monkey & PSLE maths for my p1 girl. Can please share which school did you go to & your review thereafter? Thank you!

Ai Sakura said...

Anon, Lady Pisces: Hi thanks for popping by! We started on a Maths programme (non-sponsored, in case anyone is wondering) which I'll be writing about soon. Stay tuned for a review :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Ai Sakura

I chanced upon your entry while googling for Maths enrichment in Singapore. Am on the lookout for a suitable programme for my active preschooler. Knowing the system well, I hope that he can go through something fun and engaging and most importantly, wont kill his interest for the subject before he goes to P1! Mind sharing which school did you sign up with in the end?

Cheong Ling

Shanna soh said...

Hi Ai Sakura,
I am also looking into MPM Math,Monkey Math & Kumon. Can share which enrichment class did you choose in the end,why? And the reviews thereafter? Thanks in advance

Anonymous said...

I am also keen to know which Math class you have sent your girl to and why. Thanks in advance for sharing.

Yeo Sue Yee said...

Hi i m keen to know which math class u sent your girl to as well..thanks:)

babe said...

May I know which math class you sent your girl to? Thanks!

babe said...

May I know which math class you sent your girl to? Thanks!