If you had asked me a month ago if my child was likely to be on the dean’s list, due to his outstanding performance in math, I would have been skeptical to say the least. He is in Middle School and he has struggled with math for years, even though he does very well in other subjects. He just never seemed to “get” math, starting back in first grade.
I have tried lots of different approaches with him over the years; math tutors, math workshops, flash cards, computer programs, even different types of homeschooling curriculum to supplement instruction he received from his teachers.
Thankfully, all that changed when I tried this new (new to me, anyway) Singapore Math Program that his teacher recommended. At first, I must admit I was a little unsure about it. After all, it sounds a bit … foreign. But then I stopped and thought about the whole issue, and I realized that I had tried just about everything else, so why not see what Singapore could do? I borrowed some of the books from my son’s teacher and spent the weekend looking over them.
I decided that my best approach might be a sneaked attack. After all, children aren’t necessarily drawn to math like flies to honey. You have to use a bit of guile. With that in mind, I picked a moment when my son was watching TV so he would be relaxed. I mentioned that I had found a contest online that he might be interested in. He loves contests, and is always asking me to help him enter them by sending away box tops and other odds and ends.
He didn’t seem terribly interested at first, so I pretended to be distracted so I wouldn’t make him suspicious. I told him that there was a supposedly unbeatable set of math problems, and children were being encouraged to try to solve them and then mail in their best efforts at locating the correct answers.
“That sounds weird,” he said. “What’s it called?”
“It’s called the Singapore Math Program,” I answered. “They say that no one under the age of twenty-five can solve problems like this. There’s just something about the way that children’s’ brains develop that makes it impossible. Still, some researchers are interested in the kinds of answers that children come up with, to see all the different possible approaches that they try, so they are sponsoring this contest with some prizes.”
“What kind of prizes?” he asked. I couldn’t tell if he was suspicious or intrigued.
“Oh, I don’t know, let’s see here and find out what it says … Wow, it looks like first prize is a free, daylong math workshop for the winner’s entire math class! That sounds fun!”
“Really, mom? A math workshop? What kind of prize is that?”
“Well, it says there are also other prizes like cell phones, video game coupons, and …”
“What?!? Seriously? Sign me up, I want to try this Singapore Math Program if I can win a cell phone!” he said with glee.
At first I felt a little bit guilty, but as soon as I saw him sit down with the books, I knew I made the right decision. It didn’t seem to matter to me what the motives were and if it improved his chances at math, who was I to stand in the way of him trying.
Marta Gromadzka is a writer and editor with a wide variety of experience, including writing for websites internationally and editing books on many different subjects and in a variety of formats.