Thursday, May 2, 2013

Cementing the Basics in Math - Neuromath Junior

I have been teaching Dumpling Math concepts through a lot of games and hands-on manipulatives. This is especially important when they are at such a young age and concepts need to be cemented before moving onto the next stage.

Dumpling and I were recently invited to sit in and participate in Neuromath Junior's programme. Being a homeschooler, my focus has always been to support from the homefront and where the sessions take on a fun angle and we try to avoid the drilling mode as much as we can.

Neuromath Junior is the sister company of Neuromath Learning Centre. Neuromath Junior aims to provide an engaging and nurturing environment for young children from the age of 3 – 6 years old to develop a love for Mathematics.  The classes for the Neuromath Junior Programme are hence split accordingly to the 4 age groups: 3YO, 4YO, 5YO and 6YO. Each term consists of 10 lessons where on the average, 3 topics are taught per term.  

:: The environment
Neuromath Junior is located at the Old Fire Station along Upper Bukit Timah, an area which has been developed as an enrichment hub specially catered for children. Neuromath Junior lessons are conducted in a classroom setting appropriately set up with child-sized tables and chairs. As the number of students is not large, each room is small and cozy. Classes are clearly demarcated for each age group where the child will be in that same classroom for the rest of the year.

One thing which stood out for me is the positive reinforcement the teacher gave the children throughout the lessons and this is also shown in the display of children's work which are also proudly displayed in every classroom.

:: The lesson
The lessons at Neuromath Junior are typically split into 2 parts - the first half on Math and the second half on Cognitive Development. Math concepts are taught and explained with the use of learning aids, hands-on manipulatives and games. As we sat through the lessons, it was clear that the lessons are planned out properly: flow of each lesson was very smooth, appropriate learning aids were all prepared in advance and the activities were executed in a very orderly manner.

Though activity sheets form part of the lesson plan, not all activities are done at the desks. Children are encouraged to move around the classroom to work on various Math concepts. 

Pictures above: moving along a number line to work on 'counting on' 

Pic above: introduction to length where Dumpling "measured" the width of the door

:: Low teacher-student ratio
The class ratio (at time of post) is 1:6. This is definitely a plus point for me because from a parental viewpoint, I believe that this is an ideal ratio which allows for personal coaching and interaction. Teacher Esther, who is leading Dumpling's class, is also an MOE trained teacher who has spent some years teaching Math in a local primary school hence, has a good understanding of the local primary school Math requirements. 

:: The approach
In terms of a child's Mathematical development, Neuromath Junior takes on a non-drilling hands-on Math approach where concepts are taught in a concrete, pictorial and then the abstract mode manner. This is important to me as I know that if the foundation is not set right for Math, the child will struggle with high order thinking questions when he/she is older.

When there is a need for the children to memorise (for e.g. number sequencing) Neuromath Junior does it in a fun manner for e.g. through the clever use of songs. However, Neuromath Junior would add to that, where the concept of values (in the example below) is further elaborated with an abacus. The concept of adding on is then clearly shown with the adding on of beads, thus helping the child associate the understanding of 'adding on' to 'more beads'.

Besides the Math part, motor skill honing activities and memory games are also played in every lesson. Games which range from visual memory activities to audio activities are conducted to encourage focus and concentration. Being fun, this is clearly a 'winner' with Dumpling but what I like about it is that these are also done in short bursts to keep their engagement level going. 

The activities are also brought down to a level where the children are able to relate to the pictures such as...

Identifying the correct picture in Neuromath Junior's version of the Underwater World...

Attacking the baby donuts...

Stringing her own ladder! 

:: Parental Support
What I like about the programme is that after each session, there is always a debrief for the parents (only the 3 & 4YO classes are accompanied). Each debrief session is about 10 mins long where the teachers will go through, in detail, all the activities the children did in that lesson. Explanations also include how they taught it and the various steps they went through to explain that concept. 

The debrief is also where the teachers will provide feedback on the areas where parents can support and how we can guide them  from home. In each of the class, for the Math part, the children will usually be guided to attempt half of the activities and the parents will then work with the children on the remaining half at home. 

From a homeschooling parent's perspective, that is crucial for me as these classes are conducted only once a week and so home support and guidance are definitely necessary. :) 

This is the first of a three-part series in the review of Neuromath Junior's 5YO Math Intelligence Programme. The second post is on Values and Subtraction and the last post will be on the Cognitive part of the programme. 

Neuromath Junior Enrichment Centre
272 Upper Bukit Timah Road #01-13/14 Singapore 588212 
(Old Fire Station @ Green Block).
T(+65) 6466 0145 

Dumpling and I are invited to participate and review Neuromath Junior's 5YO Math Intelligence Programme in order to give my opinion of it. All opinions I have given are mine and may differ from others but were not influenced by the company or the complimentary classes given. 

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