I am part of B’s class of WhatsAap’s mothers’ group and everyday, I get updates on what homework the class has for the day (which I am really grateful for! what would we do without our WhatsAap Groups?!! 🙂 ). In the beginning, I use to check with her the homework but after once or twice, I decided that homework was her responsibility and if she forget to do it, then she should be prepared to face the consequences from Madam P – her fair and no-nonsense class teacher. So I stopped asking.
But sometimes the Tiger Mum rears its crazy head and I ask “Any homework today?” – knowing that on my WhatsAap, the mothers have already reported the homework for the day. And almost all of the time I get a nonchalant – “Oh, I have already finished it in school.”
So she’s efficient but then I can’t help checking later – did she get her sums all right? (Yes, 98% of the time it’s all correct).
Last week was similar but she gleefully announces – “I finished my math work and I was one of the first to finish!” So as always I ask (I am such a party popper!) – “Done all correctly?”
“YES! It’s all correct.”
Okay – maybe I didn’t do too badly at her baby math. For a while, I had fears that her math was not her strong suit. During her baby and toddler years, baby math was and still is all the rage. I resisted Kumon, abacus training because I felt I and her Montessori kindergarten would be able to give her enough exposure to mathematical concepts without killing her love for learning numbers.
Now there is still the pressure of all her peers going for branded enrichment like Learning Lab, Seriously Addictive Math which I am still resisting and sometimes as a parent you worry about the truth in your own convictions.
What I know is that what I have done so far has been pretty alright. She not a math genius but I think she’s pretty alright so far. Here’s what I started with:
This was an experiment that I gleefully tried. I figure since it would only take me about 3 minutes every night, why not. So from about 3 or 4 months into pregnancy, I read Dr Suess’s Ten Apples Up On Top every night out loud.
Hubby was amused. I thought, “Hey, this is a chance to verify those claims you always hear – after the baby is born, she recognizes what she heard before or has some sort of calming response to it.” Guess what – 6 months later when I read the book to her – not a flicker or sign of recognition! Believe me, I tried very hard, tried when she was calm, tried when she was full, tried when she was in a good mood – but in no way could I classify any response that she had as some sort of recognition. I could have said “Char koay teow! Laksa! Char Bee Hoon!” and the response would probably be the same.
Baby and toddler stage
This is my version of Baby Math. We counted objects before she could even walk. When she started walking, we would count the steps of the staircase in English, then in Cantonese. My girlfriend gave us those flashcards with the dots on them. Sadly, I only persevered till 20 ( she gave me to 100) because I found it incredibly boring (for myself) although I was fascinated by the thought of a child being able to count dots just by glancing at it. Unfortunately my fascination did not translate to me putting in the work to flash the dots.
We did counting the old fashion way – counting concrete objects (little did I know then that that was the Montessori way). We played with lots of water – pouring from one container to another.
My big project then was making her a How To Count Quiet Book which was how the seed of Royal Rae was planted. I spent countless late night making the book (which turned out really nice) but seriously, the labour that went into it was crazy. How I wish then that I could just buy a quiet book and work on other fun things to do with her.
I also did a lot of art and craft with math in mind like geometric shapes using food materials.
Geomatric shapes made with raw Hari Raya uncooked crackers in the middle, sprinkled with millet and decorated with crepe paper. (at this age, I would use corn starch glue – no worries about what goes into the glue)
A homemade cake for her Ah Yee. Counting wafer roses instead of candles.
Playing with lentils by filling up containers of different sizes.
K1 & K2
I am really glad that we enrolled her in Montessori Children’s House kindergarten. They are one of the earliest Montessori if not the first Montessori school in Singapore. It was a good fit for us because it was high in form and substance. Not a TV in sight and the laptop were only used very occasionally as teaching aids. The teachers were caring and well trained in teaching the children. All the math work that they did were concrete in nature. Not once did she bring back or do any worksheets – that’s the easy way out! There were the little counting beads which lead to the Golden Beads that went into the thousands. Later, there was the Snake game that made addition and subtraction a fun 2 partner game which taught maths and cooperation at the same time. Multiplication was also made concrete with the multiplication board.
During that period, she surprised me one day when her tooth fell out. She said, “Maybe I will bring it back to Penang to see how much the Tooth Fairy gives me.”
“How much do you think the Malaysian Tooth Fairy will give?”she asks.
Note: The Singapore Tooth Fairy gives a standard $1.50
“Do you think it will be 3 ringgit? Is that more than Singapore 1.50?”
I told her it was slightly less. You could literally see the clockwork turning.
“I think I will leave it for the Singapore Tooth Fairy.”, she decided.
“What if the Malaysian Tooth Fairy gives 1.50 ringgit?”
Ha! Ha! Ha! I couldn’t help smiling. That’s kindergarten math for you. A bit impressive because it was $1.50 and not $1 that she had to work out.
Sometimes, I get pleasant surprises like that but sometimes, she can get the most easy sums wrong which shocks me and gets me all worried and that gets me thinking about enrichment again. I think it’s all part and parcel of bringing up a child – nothing is static, you just have to keep engaging the child, know their ability and give help as and when they need it.