Benefits of Music

Have you ever met a 7-year-old who could multiply 568,943 times 5 mentally

The answer is 2,844,715. And for Smriti Vaidya, a second-grader, it's a piece of cake. That's because she attends a private after-school program in Rego Park called Focus, which stands for “For Our Children's Ultimate Success.”

The program teaches students how to use an abacus to add, subtract, multiply and divide into the billions, trillions and beyond.

I visualize the beads and then I get the answer,” says Vaida. “I mean, like, the beads tell me the answer.

Every bead on the lower level of the abacus has a value of one. The upper bead has a value of five. Beads are counted by moving them toward the beam that separates the two decks.

“Got” is another word for “equals,” and the students appear to get it very quickly.

“For the child, they are moving the beads. It’s not an abstract number for them; they are like sensing it, moving it, and it's a quantity for them, says Focus Academy Director Seema Vaidya.

There's no magic involved with this math. The abacus has been used for thousands of years in countries like China and Japan. But the Focus Academy in Rego Park, Queens, is putting a new spin on math, and the kids really seem to enjoy it.

Educators are sitting up and paying attention. The Kew-Forest School in Forest Hills is one of the first private schools in the city to incorporate the Focus program as part of its after-school activities.

Math teachers new to the Focus concept say it’s not too much for young learners. In fact, they say it only complements students’ overall education.

I wouldn't recommend this as a stand alone, because it only deals with strict computation, whereas with other aspects of mathematics it’s probably good to apply some real word applications for a better understanding, says Charise Hall of the Kew-Forest School.

The course isn't cheap - it costs parents $180 a month. But students and parents alike say they are impressed with the results.

“It’s amazing because I watch her hand gesturing, and she’s coming out with the answer,” says parent Andy Newcomb. “I know what's going on in her mind, and I like it.

“Before my average was an 85, and now it's raised up to a 90, says sixth-grader Akshit Sanghavi.

- Cheryl Wills

For Our Children's Ultimate Success
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