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Mathematics SL – A cautionary tale

So the new Tuition Center near Holland Village is finally up and running. Setting up the center have been very hectic and even though we have all the necessities, the center is still not complete. Still, new students are coming and the second home of all International School Students in Singapore is finally taking shape.

Last year, around late September, two mothers contacted me for classes for their children. Their kids have been getting 2s and 3s in SL Mathematics for over an year and they have only decided to take tuition less than 2 months before their final exams. The results of entry test we gave them were dismal. They had very poor understanding of theory, had very bad basic algebraic manipulation skills and on top of that were not familiar with exam format and requirements hence lost silly marks for not using proper terminology. One of them was also over confident and often skipped steps to get the answer quickly.

We take our results seriously. One bad score will turn away 10s of students in the future. I first contemplated turning them away but when I talked to them, I saw that one of them really wanted to improve. She was also very determined and was willing to do whatever it takes to achieve desired results. All she needed was some guidance. Following our standard practice, I prepared a customized structured program for them and recommended a cram course; Intensive sessions, several times a week.

Mathematics is not an easy subject. Theory is often hard to understand and its very difficult to master it well enough to apply it to real life scenarios. The subject demands patience and practice. Our two months program achieves that by first going over all the topics in 21 sessions (in around a month time) and then doing intensive past paper practice (we aim to do at least 5 years worth of papers in 2 weeks). Even though our tuition center uses cutting edge teaching methodology to make the material easy to digest, a huge amount of information still has to be absorbed in an insanely short period of time. When I was in high school, I was no fan of hard work. I am not that old yet. I understand how students feel. Still, looking from my position, I know that once you start understanding concepts and finishing questions, Mathematics is a really fun subject. The hard part is getting to that stage!

Anyways, I digress. Only one of them agreed to take the sessions, the other stated that he will try self studying and see if he can improve on his own. I tried to reason that he has next to no time till final exams but he was adamant that traveling time will be wasted and hence the exercise will be counter-productive. The girl, decided to try the sessions. Last week, I met both of them at a Starbucks in Orchard. The girl was preparing to go to University of Waterloo, having scored a 6 in her Mathematics exam. The boy had a 4 and was retaking. It's funny how big a difference 2 points can make!

I will never claim that the girl owes it to us. We have no magic wand. All we can do is to provide best possible resources for students no matter what academic ability they have. Still, students have to put in the required hard work and make sure they follow the program we prescribe them. Under normal circumstances, if a student deviates from the plan, we quickly re-write the plan but under crises mode when the exam are a few weeks away, there is no time.

We also hire only the best teachers and pay them the highest rate in the industry. Getting good grade is always hard. With Student's Inn, its just easier. The amount of resources we have is just phenomenal. When it comes to quality of education, no tuition center comes close. Sounds a lot like self-promotion but its true!

Anyways, he is now our student. He is working hard, doing his Maths sums and attending each lesson attentively. His tutors tell me he is smart and is improving steadily. I want him to get good grades. He has wasted a good amount of time but it will not matter in the big picture if he scores well. I want him to score a 7 and go to the university of his choice. Let's see how it pans out in the end.

 

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