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Math comes alive

Math is not just for geniuses,” says Add-venture Learning’s Rosalind Phang. “Math is for everybody.”

Rosalind and colleague Tang Wee Kee have been teaching prospective math educators at Singapore’s National Institute of Education for many years. In 2009, they incorporated Add-venture Learning.

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“We wanted teachers to have strong content and good resources to match the Singapore curriculum,” says Rosalind. “We wanted to provide a more interesting, fun and meaningful approach to learning and teaching math.

“As parents of young children, we see the importance of involving parents in this process.”

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Singapore has topped international math and science tests for decades, while the Philippines languishes near the bottom.

In our country, after-school tutors are the norm, even if most do not possess rigorous mastery of content. Parents claim to have little expertise in basic topics or patience to guide their own kids.

Instead of setting up a tutorial center, Rosalind and Wee Kee prefer to empower teachers and parents to help children learn.

Their advisers are two of Singapore’s legendary math professors. Take note that internationally renowned Lee Peng Yee and Koh Khee Meng also share their expertise with the Filipino math community.

I met them at a math conference decades ago. To this day, I deem Professor Lee a beloved mentor.

Add-venture’s main product, a first in Singapore, is a series of colorful 16-page biweekly math comics for Grades 1 to 6 that present math in an engaging way.

Unlike electronic games, these comics do not condescend nor distract young learners. After routine exercises are done, children are encouraged to try out challenging, realistic problems.

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Also, unlike many textbooks, these comics do not complicate matters. Instead of verbose explanations, carefully chosen illustrations help children navigate the most important principles.

Getting the business running was a family and friend affair. At the start, Rosalind and Wee Kee solicited feedback at weekend workshops from former students-turned-teachers.

Rosalind’s daughter made drafts of the comics’ characters. Colleagues Kho Ee Moi and Angeline Yap edited every issue, ensuring the materials would appeal to kids.

Marketing remains a challenge.

“We relied heavily on ex-students who remember us very fondly and really like our resources,” says Rosalind. “But over the years, it has become harder to reach parents as school leaders are not willing to allow vendors inside.”

No regrets, however, for the benefits are priceless.

“Teachers exclaim that they have never seen a concept taught in a particular way. Parents say they themselves learn first from the magazines before teaching their kids. Children’s faces’ light up in ‘Aha!’ moments when they finally understand a difficult concept. Parents bond with children, playing time-based games or solving puzzles together.”

Particularly gratifying is “when even the Ministry of Education says our games are good and use them in their training sessions, even if they are not able to endorse products.”

More than 80 primary schools in Singapore (and some in Australia, Bangkok and Hong Kong) are using Add-venture’s materials, which have expanded to board games and number cards.

“Learning math can be fun, but it must also be meaningful. We can develop good magazines, games or apps, but most children need an adult (a teacher or a parent) to motivate them.”

Rosalind quotes Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck: “Motivation is the most important factor in determining whether you succeed in the long run … Motivation is not only the desire to achieve, but also the love of learning, the love of challenge and the ability to thrive (despite) obstacles.”

Add-venture Learning materials will be launched on Saturday, March 2, by Galileo Enrichment Learning Program at Power Mac Training Center, 2nd Floor Cedar Executive Building, Antonio Arnaiz Avenue, Makati. (Disclosure: I will facilitate math activities, but I do not have business ties with any company.) Contact Miko Sabado at 0917-813-0670 or msabado.galileoenrichment@gmail.com for slots.

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TAGS: Add-venture Learning, math, Rosalind Phang, Singapore’s National Institute of Education, Tang Wee Kee
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