A programme that aims to develop children’s critical-thinking and problem-solving skills.
USING drawings, 3D objects and building blocks to solve Maths problems may be unusual to some, but these are just some of the tools that have been effectively used.
Seriously Addictive Maths (Malaysia), which is headquartered in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, runs the Seriously Addictive Maths (SAM) Maths enrichment programme that is modelled after Singapore’s Maths curriculum framework.
“We use a successful Maths teaching pedagogy. Our eventual goal is to develop children who are able to think critically, have problem-solving skills and lifelong learning skills,” said Seriously Addictive Maths (Malaysia) managing director Gan Choon Keong.
“The new Standard Curriculum for Primary Schools (KSSR) syllabus focuses on HOTs (higher order thinking skills). This is the new way to learn Maths in the 21st century, where you don’t need humans to calculate and compute, but to think.
“However, one of the biggest challenges in primary schools is whether the teachers can deliver and if the students can understand?”
The problem, said Gan, is that the existing instrumental learning method taught at schools focuses on following set rules to meet an objective or memorising steps to get an answer.
A lot of drilling and repetition is involved so students are able to memorise things like the multiplication table.
“SAM uses the relational learning method, where the focus is on conceptual understanding. When students learn the what and why, it is easier for them to apply it to problem-solving,” he said.
“We use the Concrete-Pictorial-Abstract approach to develop the foundation and skills needed to solve problems.
“Students gain an understanding of how things happen, understand the relationship in Maths, and learn how to break whole problems into smaller parts - a foundation in problem-solving.”
After concepts, Gan said students will learn skills such as how concepts apply in Maths, including procedures and formulas.
“Skills include the ability to estimate, make approximation, analyse data and use tools to measure length and mass. We incorporate visualisation skills so students are able to visualise a situation and relate Maths to the real world,” he said.
Next comes processes, which includes reasoning, communication and connections, thinking skills and heuristics, as well as application and modelling.
“Students learn to reasonably and logically apply essential thinking skills to solve a problem, and are able to communicate to explain the solution clearly.”
Gan said children who have fun while developing a good understanding of concepts and acquiring skills are more likely to have a positive attitude about the importance of Maths and confidence in their ability to solve problems.
Although SAM is taught in English at all its centres, Gan said language is not a problem as Maths is a universal subject. What matters is how it is taught.
Since its first centre was opened it January last year, Seriously Addictive Maths (Malaysia) has opened 36 centres all over the country, including Sabah and Sarawak, through a licensing option. There are 21 centres in the Klang Valley.
The SAM programme is for children aged between four and 12. One class has a maximum of eight students.
Children are tested on their level of comprehension in Mathematics, before being given a personalised programme that is tailored towards their learning ability.
“Our teachers are instrumental in enabling children to understand Maths and how to relate Maths to real life. They come from diverse backgrounds, including professionals and housewives, who are passionate about education,” said Gan.
“We require teachers who can unlearn and relearn the new way in teaching Maths. We favour the humanistic way of teaching, such as using visualisation and thinking, rather than the robotic way of learning by using computation or calculation.
“All teachers at the centres undergo internal and external training, including those run by experienced Maths trainers, to ensure the right delivery,” he said, adding that the programme is constantly improved by introducing new tools and teaching methods.
Gan attributed the popularity of SAM’s programmes to its concept of teaching children to understand why things happen and training them to solve real-life Maths problems.
“The skills that they learn to solve problems - reasoning and thinking - can be used for other subjects. Like a car used to get a person to a destination, Maths is just a tool to develop the thinking that is required in life,” said Gan.
“I signed my children up for the SAM programme when I realised that its Maths syllabus focused more on problem-solving,” said Christine Huang.
Huang, who has two boys aged eight and 10 in an international school, said they are now more confident in tackling Maths problems.
Dr Wan Himratul Azliza noticed a difference in her daughter Serena Zara Taufiq after her first two lessons.
“The SAM programme explained Maths to her in a different way, and visual explanation helped retain the information.
“Serena used to be an average student, but she’s now in her school’s Gifted and Talented Programme for Maths.
“She’s more resourceful. If she doesn’t understand something, she’ll find solutions to solve the problem, and this is not necessarily for Maths alone,” said Dr Wan Himratul.
Serena’s favourite subject is now Math. It used to be English previously.
“I like using toys, blocks and drawings to learn Maths,” said the shy seven-year-old.