Wednesday, November 16

How Kids Benefit from an Abacus & Mental Math Brain Training Program

One of my nieces is now a whiz at mental arithmetic! How I wished a learning center was nearer our place when my sons were much younger. Here's sharing something I wrote about mental math for those who are interested to know more about it ... 

The first time you’ll see children computing two or three digit numbers without the use of a scratch paper or calculator can be a remarkable experience. This is exactly what kids at the SIP Academy Philippines do and they are amazing!

enthusiastic SIPians
Mental mathematics has been around for quite some time but it was only four years ago when it was brought to the Philippines by three friends who got to attend the 6th International SIP Abacus & Mental Arithmetic Competition in Bali. There, students from different countries displayed astounding skills and mental abilities that stunned and impressed the Filipino-Chinese guests. Immediately, they decided to make the program available for Filipino children.

Prior to the Bali trip, Carolyn Yu-Villacruz, one of the three founders of SIP Academy Philippines, said she initially couldn’t believe the video of kids doing mental arithmetic that her two friends showed her. “I thought it was only being played in fast-forward mode,” she admits. Yu-Villacruz, who’s not only an educator but also an industrial engineering graduate who does a lot of math, says she was so amazed at what she saw because “I couldn’t do it!”

After watching the International Competition, Yu-Villacruz and her friends, Greg Benidy and Kyra Yap, were convinced that the SIP program would be a very fulfilling business. And they were right. “You get to witness transformations,” shares Yu-Villacruz happily. “Some kids come in very shy then they become bibo. You see kids growing!”

photo credit: SIP Academy Thailand

More than a Business
The company aims to provide highly effective and enjoyable educational programs that can help nurture the mental, social, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being of unique individuals so that they can help form a society of Smart, Innovative, and Progressive active learners.  “We believe that the progress of our nation is through the progress of our children.”

For the founders, the SIP program is also an advocacy on helping children optimize their potentials. “Besides the arithmetic proficiency, it’s a unique brain training program that can be applied, and will be very useful, in the classroom,” explains Yu-Villacruz. To further illustrate her point, she talks about a child who started attending their classes at four years old. “He’s now in grade one and can already multiply at age seven!”

Another student, who lives in Laguna, likes the program so much, he and his parents have been traveling to SIP Academy’s New Manila center every Saturday for the past two months. Avery Chan, a nine-year-old Level 5 SIPian confirms how fun she finds the program is and how much it helps her with her math. When she goes to the supermarket with her mom, she even gets to compute their groceries without a calculator. “I’ve always loved numbers and SIP Abacus makes me enjoy math more.”

the abacus plays a significant role in mental arithmetic
Spreading the Knowledge
At present, SIP Academy Philippines has seven licensees. Aside from the main branch in Quezon City, there are centers in Manila, Pasig City, Batangas, Cebu, Baguio, and Dagupan. Around 800 children are currently enrolled in the program all over the country.

The company is open to expanding the licensing of the SIP Abacus & Mental Math Brain Training program not only to independent SIP centers, but also to schools and visionary individuals so as to reach more Filipino children and families in the country.

“We only require licensees to be willing to learn new skills and have a passion for teaching children,” describes Yu-Villacruz. The licensing fee already includes 40 hours of basic training for one owner and two teachers.

She assures interested organizations and individuals that those who will train them are also continuously learning. SIP founder, Mr. Kelvin Tham, visits the Philippines every three to four months to train teachers and check on the centers’ progress.

Cebu SIP center operator, May Marie Tan-Go, reveals how it gives her much pride and fulfillment every time they receive raves from parents about how their children, who used to hate Math, have grown to love Math and even excel in it. “But the ultimate satisfaction comes when parents tell us that their children have become more confident and sociable because they have discovered that learning is easy after all,” she enthuses. “Our SIP students know that they now have the power to be extraordinary achievers not just in academics but in all aspects of life.”

(Note: this article was originally published in Manila Bulletin's Business Agenda section on October 2010) 
© Ruth Manimtim-Floresca 

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