Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Case of the Tutor Mom

It is exam week in my kids' school this week - all three of them! You cannot imagine the chaos that goes around when study time comes. I have them all gather around the dining table where I can see each one of them at my every turn. I had no sooner turn my back from the first child to attend to second child than I catch some playful banter behind me.

Just when everything is quiet and there's some semblance of studying going on, a closer inspection would show some creative doodling on paper. Or worse, "Mom, I am soooo sleepy!" Of course a Nazi mom's solution to droopy eyes would be a quick trip to the bathroom sink for a splash of cold water on the face. :) There! All awake now! :)

Where my kids go to school, Singapore Math is in the curriculum. Singapore Math is an entirely different math from what we all grew up with. The hallmark of the curriculum is the careful guidance of students, done in a child-friendly pictorial language. Singapore math programs have a consistent and strong emphasis on problem solving and model drawing. For this reason, what I know as simple addition is now being taught as “number bonds.”

The Singapore method is poles apart from the traditional way of teaching math that my son’s school is offering a free seminar to all interested parents who want to know more about it. The Singaporean lecturer emphasized that should the tutor/parent not be familiar with the Singapore method, then it is best to leave the teaching to the school, lest any outside intervention is bound to confuse the child even more.

Having said that, it is of course disastrous that I did not bother to attend any of the said seminars. I was already this close to pulling out all of my hair in frustration as I desperately tried to explain to R the concept of looking for the missing addends – the Singpore math way. “What do you need to add to 2 to get 6?” I said for the second time, pointing to the circles, while my fingers gripped the pencil ever so tightly. Still no answer.

In desperation, I called for back-up. I called my 7-year old, “B, can you please explain to your younger brother how you do this.” She said matter-of-factly, “this is easy R. First, you look at the two circles on this side, and then look at the two lines connected to these two circles directed toward one circle in the opposite side. These two circles are called the parts, the other circle on the opposite side with two lines pointing to it is called the whole. Blah, blah, blah…. I swear, she sounded a lot like a math teacher.

That did it. R aced the exam. Mommy is happy. Case closed.

As I picked the girls up from school today, J tells me how challenging the Filipino exam was. How she found the Filipino language reading comprehension extremely difficult. “Mom, I didn’t understand some of the words in the story.” B cuts in, “consider yourself blessed, still! I didn’t understand almost all of the words in my Filipino exam!” Sadly, my math genius is totally lost in her Filipino class.

A-ya-yay! And the cycle goes on...