Every student wants to excel in studies, especially mathematics, and the PAMA programme is proving to be a valuable tool to help improve children’s abilities
PAMA, or the Program of Abacus Mental Athematic, was created by Khmer experts to help children calculate mathematical problems four times faster than current methods taught in most schools.
It is becoming popular, especially in private schools, in Phnom Penh, but most rural students have not been able to access it.
However, PAMA has now been introduced in partner schools in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Takeo provinces and some rural students are taking advantage of it.
In Takeo, more than 100 rural students aged from nine to 14 are walking from their homes to the PAMA centre in Prey Kabbas district every Sunday to take extra classes.
Oeun Rach Mony, 13, from Angkanch commune, says that he first heard it was a programme to calculate numbers faster.
He says he was interested in improving his grades in mathematics and persuaded his parents to allow him to enrol in the class.
“At first, my parents did not allow me to study it, saying that it is enough to learn mathematics under the state school programme,” he says. “They did not know about PAMA or its benefits, but since I wanted to learn how to calculate numbers fast my parent finally allowed me to study.”
Rach Mony adds that he has been studying the programme for three months and is already benefiting from it.
“When the teacher gives a lot of numbers for me to calculate, I use the PAMA method and calculate them a lot faster than before by using the abacus,” he says.
Chat Rany, a nine-year-old student, says she is new to the programme and is finding it difficult to adjust to the quick way of calculating numbers.
“My friend calculates numbers very fast, but I can’t because this programme is very new to me,” she says. “But when I see that my friend can do it, I keep trying.”
Ya Seav Mai, a 12-year-old student, says that when she uses the abacus to calculate numbers, she can solve problems much faster than she ever could before.
“When I began studying this programme I came to love learning mathematics,” she says. “Now when I do calculations faster than my classmates in the state school, my teacher praises me.”
Men Seangly, 21, a teacher at the PAMA centre, says that the programme is very new for students in the province, especially those from rural areas.
She says some students can adapt fast while others cannot and the teachers try to teach them the method step-by-step.
“Students in the city can understand the method quickly but students from rural areas find it difficult,” she notes. “It is a very new programme and some of the rural children can’t find time to practice it because they are busy helping their parents in the rice fields or other work.”
Ms Seangly adds that when she gives a lot of numbers for her students to calculate, they only use an abacus and their brains and solve the problems very fast.
“They can calculate numbers very fast, and get the right answers,” she says. “Their thought process is faster compared to students who do not learn PAMA.”
Prak Sitha, director at the Takeo PAMA centre, says that the programme was brought to the province so that rural students will be able to learn it just like their counterparts in the city.
“We want students in rural areas to have the chance to learn it and be competitive with students in the city and abroad,” he says. “Students in Phnom Penh and abroad are learning it and know it very well so now rural children can also learn it and develop their mental abilities.”
Mr Sitha says that at first many rural parents were not interested in PAMA because they did know how their children could benefit from it.
He adds that the parents are now impressed when they see that their children are progressing well in their studies after just a few months of learning the method.
“Parents in rural areas want their children to have a good future and they have agreed to bring them to the centre for extra classes on Sundays,” Mr Sitha notes.
He adds that the programme costs from $30 to $45 per term and classes are for two hours every Sunday.
Sam Ath, a 50-year-old parent, says that centre representatives came to his house to promote the programme and after a lot of explanation he agreed to let his two children study it.
“Before, I thought that the programme was only available in Phnom Penh but recently it was brought to the province and I became interested,” he says. “Now when I give my children a lot of numbers to calculate, I see how fast they can solve the problems.”
“I did not study a lot, so I hope that my children can learn this method and improve their studies for their future,” he adds.
Professor Sophea Phon, PAMA programme chief, says that the programme is available at 28 private schools and also the first state school, Sisowath High School, in Phnom Penh.
He says that in the future, he will find more partner schools to spread the programme throughout country as much as possible.
Mr Phon says that PAMA is a method to calculate mathematical problems fast and it is getting popular with students in the city and abroad.
“It is four times to five times faster than ordinary methods of calculation,” he notes. “Children start loving doing mathematics and become more active and smarter.”
“The programme was created by Khmer experts, recognised by the Education Ministry and was copyrighted with the Culture Ministry in April 2018,” Mr Phon adds.
“This programme is not compulsory and students can opt to continue studying mathematics using current methods,” he says. “This programme is designed to improve the students’ capabilities and make them more competitive at the international level.”
Dy Kamboly, an Education Ministry spokesman, says that he cannot evaluate if fast calculation programmes like UCMAS Cambodia or PAMA are popular among students in the city or rural areas because the ministry has not officially done any research on the matter.
“I personally have seen that some parents and students are interested in programmes that help children calculate faster to improve their mental abilities,” he notes.