Mention the word “Math,” and you see a lot of smirks and hear moaning all over. The subject seems to be a general weakness and conquering it seems as hard as getting a viral video.
Rachel Joanne Pomer, who teaches the subject full-time at AHEAD Tutorials & Review, says it is because solving Math problems needs a different process; it involves memorizing postulates and formulas that can be overwhelming.
Her colleague, Nobie Ferma, thinks the culprit is not the fear of Math itself, but of the unknown. He points out that some teachers can’t explain Math in a more practical way. This why students don’t understand what “x” means in a problem. Otherwise, students should be able to grasp the lessons.
Ferma does not require his students in AHEAD to memorize equations. He shares that it will only overwhelm them. He does not also use math jargon. Instead, he asks, “If you multiply a number by something and it becomes six what’s that ‘something?’” or, “Two times ‘blank’ is this.”
“Something” and “blank” stand for variables or the unknown.
If the lessons are on finding out which fraction is bigger, Ferma again mentions the familiar, like candy. He asks students which one is worth more: two pieces of candies for P3 or four pieces for P5. The students will choose the second option. That’s how they learn that 2/3 is smaller than 4/5, he points out.
Pomer, mother of a three-year-old, explains fractions by saying they are “a part of a whole.” She cites familiar activities like eating pizza and sharing candies to bring home the point. She notes that younger students listen and learn more if she tells stories and asks them to color part or parts of an illustration instead of memorizing the process.
A sense of humor also helps a lot. Humor, like in any situation, breaks the ice and makes the student feel more at ease with the teacher.
Sometimes, says Pomer, a student fears not so much the subject, but the teacher himself. So, she uses humor to reach out to the student. She also tells stories students can relate to and adds details to a word problem for them to appreciate it more.
Ferma’s humor, on the other hand, consists of cracking jokes and sharing fun facts. He peppers his presentations with popular memes. These are especially useful for gadget-loving millennials, who welcome the break from the monotony of learning about decimal points and geometric theorems.
“If parents have the time, they can check out memes. They can use current trends as tools to teach their children,” he says.
The best time to teach children about Math, or any other subject, is during early childhood. Pomer says that at this stage, their mind is like a sponge that can absorb everything. Math is all about drawings, counting, adding and subtracting. Analyzing a problem is not part of the picture yet.
Ferma, for his part, states that that it is during the early years that the parent-child relationship is at its strongest.
It is also easier to teach Math to younger children because “as we get older, topics get harder and more complex,” Pomer points out.
But no matter what age the child is, it is important that parents keep their Math woes as students to themselves. Ferma warns that parents who tell their children they never liked Math or were not good with it, might pass on this bias to their offspring.
“The child might think he shouldn’t like the subject, too. He might also feel he inherited his parents’ weakness in Math,” he warns.
The young teacher also warns parents against telling their children Math is easy in an effort to escape from the duty of teaching the subject to their offspring. The parents may have forgotten about the existing concepts and the newer ones that they were not able to learn when they were in school.
The wise solution, says Ferma, is to seek outside help.
That’s where AHEAD comes in. The tutorial and review center, founded by Rossanna Llenado, has been around for 24 years. AHEAD Junior helps kinder to Grade 10 students and teaches Singapore Math, mind mapping and speed reading.
AHEAD Online offers academic tutorials and is the only UPCAT (University of the Philippines College Admission Test) review of its kind. There are also reviews and tutorials for those who want to pass college entrance exams in UP, Ateneo and La Salle. Tutorials in English as a second language and Business English Skills are offered.
Numbers speak for themselves. AHEAD has 33 awards, seven branches nationwide, and 100,000 students so far. It is celebrating its 25th year in September next year.