Last month, my daughter came home with her CMT (Connecticut Mastery Test) report for the 4th grade. We were surprised to see the results. Before I talk about the results, let me share some background. My daughter is 10-years old and is in the 5th grade in one of the best school districts in Connecticut. The town spends close to $16,000 per pupil per year. While more money does not necessarily mean better schools, the general impression is that the schools in our district are as good as private schools.
Circa 2012, I saw the same report and was very puzzled. She was right there at the district average. Her score was 485 while the district average was 482. My wife and I used to think our little princess was very good in Math but the CMT report negated that claim.
3 years of Kumon® and perhaps some good genes did not help!
Suhani had started Kumon when she was only 4 years old. Over her three years on the Kumon program, she had progressed to the stage where at least in Kumon terms, she was way ahead in math compared to her age, as she had already completed F series (fractions) twice at Kumon. Her ranking at Kumon was at or better than 90 percentile amongst Kumon students. Generally speaking, the parents of the Kumon students are very focused on academics and are determined to make sure their kids excel in school. Therefore, we thought if she was 90 percentile in Kumon she ought to be far above average in the school district; of course, that’s why we would send her to Kumon. So, what happened?
But still, she was average, per CMT report. Why? We, as parents, focused on Suhani’s education quite a bit. She also had a home environment that had a good academic influence because her dad (i.e. me) is a Math and Computer Science graduate from IIT Delhi (the equivalent of MIT in India) and her mom is a Chartered Accountant and a CPA.
Her report and what that meant was saddening for us. She used to labor over Kumon worksheets, spending close to 30-45 minutes on it every day. It was a daily ordeal for her, but she wanted to please us as parents so she never refused to do her Kumon work. Despite this, we felt that she was losing her creativity by doing these boring, repetitive worksheets and still not getting anything out of them. We felt incredibly frustrated.
We also noticed that, in her school homework, she struggled with questions that required more analytical thinking e.g. word problems and she struggled with showing her work.
(As an aside, we’ve seen similar weaknesses in the hundreds of ex and current Kumon students who have taken Grade matched Thinkster diagnostic tests.)
As parents, we felt that it was due to Kumon’s focus solely on arithmetic, but we hoped (perhaps wishfully) that she would overcome this obstacle eventually.
We were afraid that we were making her into an arithmetic wonk.
Fast forward to Oct 2013, she got her report for grade 4. I could not believe it! Her results were amazing and I hadn’t seen it coming! I had thought she would continue on the same path as last year. However, as you can see below, she scored way above the average. How did that happen! Really, how did that happen?
Right around the time she finished 3rd grade (summer 2012), my daughter became a very early adopter of Thinkster Math. The product was launched in December 2012, but she started as the very first student when the product was still in its prototype stage because her dad (i.e. me) was the Chief Technical Officer and Co-founder. I could also manage any technical issues with the product still in its infancy.
The Thinkster Math curriculum focuses on not just arithmetic but a wide variety of skills. It is aligned with Common Core State Standards aka CCSS which was introduced in our school district this year. We felt that the Thinkster Math curriculum did not just teach arithmetic or math but also taught how math and logic fit in the overall world. For example, learning with money problems and word problems what a fraction means brings a whole new meaning to fractions.
Admittedly, in addition to Thinkster Math, a few other things changed this year. She had a new teacher who was really very caring and the school introduced CCSS and Singapore Math. The last factor was applicable to the entire school district so it can not be a factor for her relative improvement.
We as parents have watched our daughter for a while. Her ability to think from different angles has increased, though we are still working at it, or shall I say, Thinkster is still working at it.
Suhani still likes to please us as parents, but she genuinely loves the variety of work that the digital worksheets offer. Although, not a competitive girl, she also loves to make sure she’s on track to reach her goal 7500 Thinkster points each month so that she can choose what to buy with her gift card.
Suhani even showed her use of Thinkster Math at a school tech expo.
Of course, this is only the story of one student who has improved their school district math score as a result of Thinkster. However, we constantly hear comments from parents about how their children’s math confidence has improved since starting the Thinkster program. Some have even written lengthy emails to share their own comparisons between Thinkster and Kumon.
Thinkster also has built-in diagnostic tests which we have started assigning to students, not only when they first start the Thinkster program, but at regular intervals throughout the program so that parents and students can easily track improvements.
All students who take the 2-week free trial are given the grade matched diagnostic tests, designed to highlight each child’s math skills strengths and weaknesses. It’s a great way for you to find out which areas of math your child needs support in and which areas they can be stretched in.
Give Thinkster a try today!
Note: Kumon® is a registered trademark of Kumon North America, Inc. Thinkster Math is in no way affiliated to the same.
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