In his state of the nation address earlier in June, President Cyril Ramaphosa stressed the need for South Africa to prepare for "jobs of the future" in preparation for the looming fourth industrial revolution.
To achieve this, Ramaphosa expressed the need for an improved education system that would benefit children and particularly focus on a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) curriculum. He added that schools would have to introduce subjects which are aligned with the ever-changing technological sector.
With no exact timeline given on when exactly these subjects would be introduced, some questions may arise on whether children will be well-equipped with the knowledge and skills needed in preparation for the fourth industrial revolution.
Luckily, an exciting and innovative online math tutoring programme called Smartick may just give parents some relief with its provision of optimal learning that doesn't restrict children to the official school curriculum.
Using artificial intelligence (AI) developed by Smartick, the programme adapts to your child's learning pace and only needs 15 minutes a day for learning methodology and practice.
Because it's an online programme, children can access the daily sessions from your PC or tablet at any given time and anywhere. Smartick is aimed at learners aged four to fourteen, which is the primal period of developing math and cognitive skills in children.
To get more insight into this brilliant innovation, we spoke to co-founder Javier Arroyo who tells us why this programme is just what your child needs:
How did the idea of Smartick come about? What was the gap you saw in the education system?
Daniel De Vega, the other co-founder, and I both knew as business consultants how important maths is for tech companies. We were firsthand witnesses as our country, Spain, didn’t do as well as it should have in the PISA test.
In addition, we were very aware that millions of children across the globe struggle with mathematics, starting with those within our own close family circles.
We wondered if there could be a better way to reinforce maths learning at home without the inconvenience for parents to take children somewhere for an extracurricular activity, as other programs require.
How is Smartick different from other educational methods such as tutoring, Kumon or Eye Level Learning (E.nopi), etc?
First, our artificial intelligence makes it possible for us to adapt each session to the exact level kids need to be working on. They work on an initial level assessment and, from there, we like to say that we “cook” the perfect maths dish with the exact ingredients needed. Smartick prepares exactly what the child needs, based on their own maths skills and learning pace, regardless of their age or grade.
Second, we are not aligned with a specific curriculum which allows us to study, test, and filter the best maths methodologies around the world. The Smartick curriculum includes Montessori, Singaporean, and other classical approaches thereby providing a unique approach.
Third, we think that we are the perfect mix of seriousness and rigour as Smartick takes hard work and effort. We require maximum effort and concentration from children.
However, we also provide the right amount of gamification serving as a reward for their hard work. Kids earn ticks during their daily session which is connected to their Virtual World where they can play scientifically designed games to improve their cognitive skills.
Fourth, we are aware of the dangers of too much screen time, so we designed a 15-minute session to promote maximum concentration and responsible screen time.
What age is most suitable to start a child on Smartick and how does it adapt/cater to their individual needs?
Four or five years old is perfect. It’s amazing to these young learners to become confident with numbers.
It’s as if Smartick works as a vaccine against maths anxiety.
As the program is adaptive, our AI detects the areas each child needs to be practising, allowing us to work with diverse student profiles.
Children who are already fluent with numbers and considered gifted or talented can go beyond their class while working with Smartick.
On the other hand, our adaptability can benefit those who are struggling and falling behind at school.
Our cutting-edge AI adjusts in real time, permitting students to progress at their own pace while leaving the frustration behind.
Is Smartick remedial or does it act as a supplement to school learning?
It can be both. We can be great for children that are falling behind at school — it’s quite exciting to see them gain self-confidence with the subject and in themselves. At the same time, it can be a great school supplement.
Smartick provides a well-rounded curriculum where children work on arithmetic, logic, word problems, and coding. In addition to building a strong maths foundation, they build critical thinking and problem-solving skills that can be a perfect complement to not only their school learning, but in life.
For these reasons, it makes us the right choice for many types of children: for those who find the subject challenging and suffer from maths anxiety, to those who already excel in maths and want to do much more than the school curriculum and go beyond the standards.
STEM education is increasingly becoming a much talked about point of discussion for maths & science development. How is Smartick playing a role in making children attracted to STEM subjects?
It’s surprising how little we read about how important is to be fluent in maths in order to have a STEM career. In fact, to have children that aren’t afraid of maths is the very first and critical step to have future STEM graduates.
You can't get there avoiding maths. So yes, we see that we play a crucial role: to be the foundation and the stepping stone for children to STEM careers.
Are the teachers of the children able to use Smartick to help them track the progress/struggles of a learner, or is Smartick purely for personal use?
It can be both. Most of our Smartick children use it at home allowing their parents to see their progress the minute they finish their session as we send them an email with the results. Teachers can also implement Smartick in the classroom and into their maths curriculum.
They can assign it as maths homework to ensure students are consistently practising their maths skills outside of the classroom, where it is just as important.
Teachers can also review the students’ sessions in detail and see their progress and evolution over the course of time through their special Teacher Page.
How does Smartick help prepare children for the increasingly technological and competitive job market?
Apart from building a strong maths foundation, kids improve their logic and reasoning, while also developing critical thinking and problem-solving skills through the diverse Smartick curriculum (arithmetic, logic, word problems, and coding). This mix is perfect for the needs they are going to encounter in the job market.
Also, as children need to work on Smartick daily, they learn good habits, responsibility, discipline, and how to cope with mistakes. In short, Smartick helps children build character, something that we know is useful for them in life and give them a competitive edge.
Any other useful information we need to know?
Having such a huge database enables us to study and learn how children are doing. For example, we don’t find any differences between girls and boys and that makes us think that working just by themselves and in front of a computer frees them from any peer pressure and bias from their teachers.
Smartick has interactive tutorials that children can work on if they’d like to review or learn a new concept. We present the tutorials within the child’s session when our AI detects that it is needed.
These tutorials are great for independent learning. It’s also helpful for those children who don’t feel comfortable raising their hand in class when they don’t understand a concept — they can always review it in Smartick.
Lastly, although we are an online programme, we are very proud of the team behind the AI. There are diverse people from many fields who are mathematicians, pedagogues, scientists, developers and much more, constantly working to help children have the best learning journey with Smartick.
Smartick has a 15-day free trial and has different plans and pricing for different ages starting at R199/month which can be seen here. Smartick also has an app which can be downloaded on app various stores.