Today The New York Times featured Thinkster Math (previously Tabtor Math) in their STEM column which covers developments in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The article titled A Math App that Offers an Unusual Human Touch, was written by their columnist, Kenneth Chang who is also a Thinkster member.
Kenneth doesn’t shy away from the truth about Thinkster:
“I have been a paying customer of Thinkster since October, for two of my children: Kelvin, a fifth grader, and Rosalind, a third grader. It is not a panacea. “I hate Thinkster,” Kelvin will say when frustrated by a problem”
We’ve all had that feeling of hating a task that has frustrated us, and that’s where using a coach becomes a great way of working through the frustrations. Read this blog from a Thinkster member whose son developed the love of math with Thinkster. We all learn best when challenged to the right level, where the task at hand is not so easy that it is boring and is also not so challenging that you never hope to solve it. Targeting the learning at that “just right” level, at the edge of our comfort zone, does lead to a certain level of discomfort, so it’s our role as coaches to help students rise to the challenge.
Kenneth does go on to say in his New York Times column:
“But I still have found it much better than other options, including websites that offer plenty of practice problems but no feedback or guidance.”
Thinkster coaches support students through the tricky, frustrating patches. In addition to the built-in video tutorials, coaches can provide corrections or worked solutions, introduce easier worksheets and encourage students through face to face Skype or FaceTime conferences. Since students come to Thinkster with different learning styles, different learning gaps and work at different paces, our coaches are constantly personalizing each student’s learning plan.
As another Thinkster member, Anna Hinton told us:
“Perhaps the most valuable aspect of Thinkster is that it allows the child to take ownership and control over their own learning and development. When using Thinkster, the student plays a vital role in helping to design their own learning experience, talking to and providing feedback to their instructor about likes, dislikes, challenges and successes. On the other hand, for our son—surprisingly—the most valuable aspect has not proven to be the rewards offered, but rather the opportunity to assess his own progress with the immediate graphing of performance data after the completion of each worksheet. At six year olds, this child is excited about identifying trends in his performance with the worksheets—areas of strength and needs for improvement, both in terms of the actual content and completion time.”
As a coach, offering that “Human Touch” to Thinkster’s international students (we currently have students in all 5 main continents), I see my role as being my students’ coach and removing some of the pressure from parents who are supporting their children’s math learning.
Thinkster as an Alternative
We have great respect for our “competitors” in the supplementary math education field. IXL, Kumon, Khan Academy to name a few, are all helping students with math. However, Thinkster comes to the math education arena with a unique mix of mobile technology, a full curriculum and a dedicated, experienced tutor whose aim is to guide students through this important subject.
Over the weeks and months, our students are gaining a huge amount of math knowledge, as well as strengthening their existing knowledge. The New York Times article discusses how Thinkster has worked with students in schools:
“Students took a skills assessment at the beginning of the school year, and then the same test again in March. The first graders, for example, got about 30 percent of the answers right the first time and 90 percent the second time, in March.”
Our coaches see similar improvements every week with our students who are using Thinkster as a supplementary program.
Thinkster as a solution
Overall, Thinkster’s technology, our coaches and our in-built rewards are there to celebrate students’ achievements when they find the learning easy and also to support and coach students through the tough math concepts.