Challenge Math: The Asian Math Methodology

Asian mathematics have a high reputation, with Asian students consistently coming out on top in international surveys of math education. Inspiration Learning Center’s new Challenge Math program for grades K-8 uses Asian math teaching methods to help your child reach math excellence.

Why are Asians so good at math?

Asian teaching methods emphasize conceptual and procedural knowledge, meaning math concepts are taught in a very clear and logical manner. The learning process involves repeated practice of core concepts, so that students build a strong foundation for further learning. Students are taught to see math as logical relationships between numbers, rather than simply memorizing steps and formulas, thus learning it in a more meaningful way. Teachers don’t move on to more difficult topics until the previous one has been mastered.

In addition, there is the Confucian belief in Asian culture that doing well at something is a matter of practice and effort. Ask an Asian parent and they will likely tell you that a child not doing well in math is due to lack of practice, not an inherent lack of ability. This is very different from the Western notion that some kids just aren’t good at math.

Due to this, repetition and practice are a big part of Asian teaching methods. It is thought that repeated exposure and effort in math concepts through things like daily homework and frequent tests, students become more proficient at problem-solving, critical thinking, and develop an overall stronger understanding of numerical relationships.

Challenge Math: Bringing Asian math to the west

Inspiration’s Challenge Math program adopts the Asian teaching method with a  three-step learning process: concrete, pictorial, and abstract. Students first use small objects such as dice or paperclips to model math concepts in a hands-on way, before moving on to using pictorial representations. Finally, students solve math problems in an abstract way using numbers and symbols. This three-step process is highly logical and sequential, with an emphasis on mental math. The goal is for students to develop a deep understanding of the logical and numerical relationships in mathematics. Students understand not just how something works, but why.

Students also learn fewer concepts but in far more depth. The topics are practiced and reviewed with a variety of word problems and real-life applications, which build critical thinking skills and allow students to get in the necessary amount of practice.. This way, students master each concept before going onto the next, and ensures that there is no need for re-learning the skills after advancing to the next grade.

You might recognize this method from Singapore math, which has gained popularity on the international stage. Actually, Singapore math is taught the same way as mathematics in other East Asian countries, but it is better known simply because Singaporeans use the English language. It is due to Singapore math’s distinguished record and English-language content that Inspiration Learning Center chooses to use their materials in our program.

Is Challenge Math right for your child?

Our Challenge Math program is designed for students in grades K-8 who already have a good math foundation, want to challenge themselves, or want to improve their math grades from B’s to A’s. This program is also perfect for students who enjoy doing math and want to explore the subject as a possible field of study in higher education.

Check your child’s report card. The Ontario elementary and middle school report card splits mathematics into 5 categories: Number Sense and Numeration, Measurement, Geometry and Spatial Sense, Patterning and Algebra, and Data Management and Probability. If your child has B+ or higher in at least 3 of the 5 areas, they are at the right level for Challenge Math.

Enrolment has already begun!

We are now accepting students for the Challenge Math program, beginning in mid-September. Challenge Math is offered for grades K-8, with two 12-week programs at each grade level. Tuition is $400 per 12 weeks, covering 12 classes. Contact your local Inspiration Learning Center or email us at for more information.

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