When I was a kid I was a math whiz. By age 9, my sister and I worked in my grandmother’s liquor store (shhhhhh! don’t tell!) at the cash register. My grandma was nearby, watching every transaction — and keeping her eye out for the local authorities, of course. And yes, we handled the booz — Bacardi, Smirnoff, Night Train, Thunderbird, Johnny Walker Red — all the hard stuff. Never fear — we turned out ok. 😉 … But, I digress.
By age 2 the Champ, my son, could count, AND recognize all numbers through 10. He was evaluated by his pre-school teacher as “head of the class”. However, by age 6, the boy was getting lost in math. His math test results were worsening, and his esteem was shot. During homework he’d be in tears! (Inwardly, so would I). I didn’t know what to do. I even had one parent tell me: “Maybe he’s just not good in math”.
Yeah, that kinda pissed me off.
It was the end of of his 1st grade year. That summer I went to work. I made sure the Champ had math examples several times a week — to review what he’d learned during the school year. (Listening to him whine about it at times was quite painful.) Meanwhile, I compared the schoolwork, and any type of remedial assistance offered in his current school to others. Sadly, his school came up short. I priced the Sylvan schools, but they were just too expensive. I had a chance meeting with a parent of another school. She introduced me to the Kumon Learning Center.
The methods at the Kumon Learning Center are basic — and even obvious. Prior to enrollment, students are evaluated to assess their level of understanding, and computation speed. Upon enrollment, Kumon has students start from the ground up and repeat basic equations until they master them — even if they have to start at the lowest level (0+1, 0+2, 1+1, etc). This promotes memorization, and helps increase speed. Once they’ve mastered a level, they move on. Students are taught to complete their assignments independently from day one — which places the responsibility on the child. There is a timed assignment everyday — yes, even on Christmas. There are absolutely no breaks.
The Owner of the Allentown, PA Kumon Center, Neeta Garg, evaluated the Champ herself. In explaining the results of his evaluation, she only addressed him. Though I was sitting nearby, she spoke to him — and only gave him eye contact. It was like I wasn’t even there. To my surprise, however, I observed my son responding positively — consenting to the Owner’s instruction. I was sold.
It’s been about 5 months since the Champ’s been enrolled at the Kumon Center — in its Allentown, PA location. I also transferred the Champ to a different school: Lehigh Christian Academy. There, the Champ has been able to connect more with his teachers, and their overall approach. That, in itself, is invaluable. It’s not been without sacrifice: we minimize expenses as much as possible, rarely eat out, and are on a strict budget all around; television is scarce during the week. Nonetheless, the payoff has been grand!
Today, if you ask the Champ what his favorite school subject is, he’ll always say “Math”. On weekends, he has taken it upon himself to complete his Kumon assignments first thing in the morning — before any other activity (most of the time I’m not even awake yet!). He also prefers to complete his Kumon homework before any other assignment. His school math grades have improved dramatically. He is excelling in “Rocket Math”. His esteem is “off the charts”. Even his teacher states the Champ is “bent toward math”.
Not all parents can transfer their children to another school, or enroll their child/ren in a learning program. Key factors are money, and time. In the absence of a learning program, I encourage parents to learn what the learning programs do — and try to do it yourself. Ultimately you want to create a habit of studying the basics through mastery. If finances are an issue, seek out non-profit organizations like The Parris Foundation (a charity organization dedicated to promoting educational opportunities and fostering awareness in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) via scholarships and community outreach programs). Finally, don’t forget to seek school advisement — from ANY school. School advisors are your friend. They took that job to help people, and they have access to valuable information that can help your child.
Whatever you do, start your search for help EARLY, and don’t wait. Don’t accept the status quo. Anyone can be good at math — given the chance.