She listened eagerly and took notes furiously as the mathematics tutor explained important concepts and dished out examination tips.
But the student was not preparing to sit a major test at the end of the year. She was a mother of one, in a class of about 40 enthusiastic dads and mums.
Housewife Jessica Sim, 47, paid $30 for a three-hour workshop on maths and English at Concept Math Education Centre last year, to understand what her 10-year-old daughter Yi Xuan goes through and how she can better coach her.
"We may get to the solution but the process may not be appropriate for her age," she said. "Learning from a professional helps in appreciating what my child goes through."
Yi Xuan, a Primary 4 pupil, said: "Now, my mum better understands the complex questions and works together with me to solve them."
These days, it is not just children who are going for tuition.
More parents are attending crash courses and intensive workshops to help their children with their studies. They receive exam tips, understand common mistakes made by pupils and learn concepts that are likely to come out in exams.
There are at least a dozen education centres offering such hothousing workshops for parents, up from just a handful three years ago.
Many have seen a jump in the number of parents going for such classes.
Genius Young Minds, which does primary school maths tuition, started offering tuition for parents of Primary 6 pupils each term from 2013.
It has since extended such classes to parents of Primary 1 to 6 pupils. Now, these classes are done every month, for 31/2 hours per session.
Some 500 parents attended the classes last year, from about 300 in 2015. In 2013, only 25 signed up.
Grouped by their maths abilities, the parents are guided on how to apply the various maths concepts to different questions.
At the centre this year, classes will cost between $257 and $397 per month, depending on the primary school level. This is up from $197 to $257 monthly last year.
Madam Nurhidayah Mohamed Ismail, 32, founder of the centre in Tampines, said parents join such classes as they want to be involved in their kids' education.
Concept Math, which has two outlets in Novena and Bukit Timah, last year collaborated with another education centre to offer a one-off, three-hour workshop for parents, in which they were acquainted with the syllabus for English and maths and learnt key concepts.
All 60 slots for the workshop last May were taken up within a day.
Ms Janice Chuah, 44, its founder, intends to run more of such sessions this year. She is expecting about 240 parents to sign up.
"Basically, it is a boot camp for parents," the primary school maths tutor explained. Sessions will cost between $30 and $50, depending on the level of study.
Parents are also allowed to sit in at regular classes taught by Ms Chuah and learn together with their kids. She introduced this idea six years ago for her Primary 5 and 6 classes.
"Many diligently copy notes and ask questions," she said. "If parents know how to help with the sums, the child receives almost immediate help, instead of having to wait to ask the school teacher or tutors."
Marshall Cavendish Education (MCE) also offers parenting workshops. It started doing so for maths in 2015.
Ms Lee Fei Chen, head of publishing at Times Publishing, of which MCE is a subsidiary, said the workshops were well-received.
Since last year, the provider of educational solutions has introduced more workshops, and expanded to include English and science.
"It is common to hear parents exchanging their teaching experiences with their children and the difficulties they encounter, and lamenting how demanding the syllabuses are," Ms Lee said.
During the workshops, trainers address these concerns and conduct hands-on activities to help parents be effective coaches at home.
Parents said such workshops have been useful.
Madam Sandy Soh, 46, who is self-employed, went for the Math Masterclass at Genius Young Minds last December. She is now more confident in guiding her 11-year-old son, explaining that the session helped her grasp the right concepts to assist him.
Dr Timothy Chan, director of SIM Global Education's academic division, said the motives behind the parental involvement may lead to mixed results. The child may become dependent on the parents and develop the habit of turning to them for help, he added.
"It will not help the child excel on his or her own. In the long run, children will benefit more from parental support such as encouragement, reassurance and understanding, than getting the right answers with the help of parents."A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 15, 2017, with the headline 'Parents go for tuition - to help their kids'.
My nephew has three children, a Sec 1 girl, boys Prim 2, 5. The wife complains tuition fees come to $2000 per month. I see the wife hurrying daily to bring the children hither and thither - always in a hurry. Another thing I dislike is the very often canning to make sure the children would keep up with their homework, quick to complete any daily task like bathing, changing clothes, putting on shoes, eating - and eating has now being "upgraded" to be a task! (At this very moment of my typing, the mother is caning, shouting ... mei you yong xin zhou ... Ahh .. Ahh from the second son) And the silly counting - 1,2, 3...10! I can't imagine such style of bringing up children (fortunately, the three children are good samples).
Tuition is basically drilling and it definitely can help getting high scores in exams - it is a well established fact by the Chinese in the Mainland, the Koreans, Japanese. But there may be a great difference between tuition and education. Education is long-term strategy for "survival" in life, tuition is like immediate gratification. This niece of mine has a good friend who has 2 children at the top % of their schools - she tutors the children herself. Once they come and stayed for lunch. At the table this woman was preparing two plates of rice for her children. One plate is round plate and the other is squarish.
Elder daughter: "Mum, which of the plate is mine?"
Mum: "The circle one"
Me: "It is the round one"
Mum: "Oh yes! It is the round one. It is an error"
It would be bad etiquette if I were to correct her "error" with : "Not an error, just a mistake". As can be seen, this woman has her head filled very much with tuition terms - circle, square, triangle, error, corrections...
One of the greatest - or the greatest - mind in human history is Isaac Newton. He had no teacher. He only started learning higher mathematics at a very advance age of 20. By age 26, he was one of the best mathematician of his time. When he was once asked why he is good in solving problems, his answer:
I think unto them
Mathematics and science is all about mental concepts to be manipulated and understood through the use of the thinking - the key is thinking. I have one learning tips for the sciences to share with the "tuition" world of ours.
TIPS TO SCORE TOP MARKS
1)Start learning a new topic by starting a new chapter of a textbook. The usual style (at my times) would be some explanations and solved problems as examples. Then, there would be the "crucial" exercise with many problems.
2) The student attempts some of the problems - meets with difficulties - but finally solving the "difficult" question. He goes to the next problem, the next, ... and is happy. WRONG!
WHEN YOU ATTEMPT A PROBLEM AND CANNOT GET IT RIGHT THE FIRST TIME EASILY - IT IS A VERY, VERY RED FLAG. YOUR UNDERSTANDING OF THE TOPIC IS VERY MUCH LACKING.
No A-level topics in science should be considered difficult - it is not like James Clerk Maxwell creating his electromagnetism - an original piece of discovery. Most students, when finally able to solve a very difficult problem will just end it by going to the next problem. WRONG!
The SECRET to score top marks is to STOP and THINK.
When finally solving a difficult problem, the student should enquire why at the first attempt, he failed to get it right. (in the examination hall, you are not give unlimited time, but you have the MOE constitutional right to unlimited use of all knowledge and smartness you have gained through your own effort). The reason of facing difficulty comes from only two sources:
1) understanding the language and expression. We assume you are not set a question by a dumb examiner who cannot express things clearly- without ambiguities.
2) lack of understanding. Failure to actually have a good overview of the new topic. It is very important for the student to know the gaps he has in his understanding and to make sure he patches all those gaps in his understanding of the new topic. It is only in this manner that a student can perform well in exams - but don't guarantee a future Nobel Prize.
I will give a simple example in physics. The whole of Newtonian mechanics is based only on Newton's three laws of motion and the law of universal gravitation. From these, we could predict the paths of planets and the complex behavior of gyroscopes. Authors could then expand these into a 500 page book on classical mechanics. In the case of A-level mechanics, I think all problems revolve around the conservation of energy and momentum - just two concepts!
Chan Rasjid.Edited by Chanrasjid 14 Mar `17, 12:59PM