Shehreen Zaman, the founder of Math Project, was recently interviewed by host Arshad Bhatti as an exclusive feature on popular local news show, Toronto 360 TV. During the interview, Shehreen shared Math Project’s history, delving into its humble beginnings to its national recognition by BMO as one of the top 10 women-owned businesses in 2020. Read more about the interview and its highlights below!
Math Project’s Interview with Arshad Bhatti at Toronto 360 TV
Arshad: Our next guest is a member of our community: Shehreen Zaman. It’s a matter of great pride when people from our community do something different. When you undertake something different, especially if the task is difficult, and get recognized and appreciated for your efforts, it feels great.
Shehreen Zaman is a lecturer at University of Toronto. She started Math Project in 2010 In GTA as a side hobby, which kept growing. Math Project spreads knowledge and awareness of math with respect to children from kindergarten to Grade 12. Her program motivates children for math in a very friendly manner. […]
Most importantly, Bank of Montreal featured Shehreen Zaman’s program among one of the top 10 women-owned businesses of 2020. They [BMO] received thousands of applications, from which Math Project was selected as one of the top 10 organizations. Today, Shehreen is present with us and we welcome her in the program. Shehreen, Assalamualaikum, we welcome you in Toronto 360 TV.
Shehreen: Walaikumsalam, thank you for having me.
Arshad: People usually run away from math, but you undertook a project for math as a side hobby. And then we see your many achievements, as Bank of Montreal featured your program as one of the top 10 women-owned businesses. Can you please let our viewers know more about how you were selected among the top 10 women-owned businesses by Bank of Montreal?
Shehreen: Sure! BMO awarded us for being one of the top 10 women owned businesses recently in November 2020 that showed resilience during COVID-19 and showed innovation. I started this project in 2010 as a side hobby. By profession I am an actuary, and I also teach at the University of Toronto as you mentioned. […] I started the project because I felt that our community here doesn’t think out of the box, compared to the rest of the world and other communities In North America.
I started Math Project to prepare kids for international math contests. I felt that our youth should be trained to aim high and achieve higher and higher goals. I started as a small side project, but little did I know at that time that this would expand so much that, by the end of 2015, I had to leave my full-time job to focus on Math Project on a full-time basis. MashaAllah, I got a tremendous response from parents and students. My students’ success stories [in Math] became the main motivating factor for me to give my profession a break and dedicate all my time and focus to this project.
Basically, I find it tragic that many parents in our community don’t understand the seriousness of the subject – math. Unfortunately, they don’t find out that the school system is so flawed in Ontario in terms of math learning that sometimes it becomes too late for them if they don’t pay attention at the right time. Many parents come to us when their children are in Grade 9 or 10. They complain that they tried various tutoring options for the child but he is not performing well in school. Math is one subject that is ‘required’ if you’re looking to do any important major in university. At least first year [university] math is required.
Arshad: You mentioned that you had to quit your job to manage the expanding program. Can you talk about how you manage it? How do you guys operate, and how does the registration process work?
Shehreen: My program is offered online and on-site. We have both options available. Just during COVID-19, we are only offering the online option.
Arshad: So you got the recognition [from BMO] for successfully pivoting online too.
Shehreen: Correct. The two local sites that we operate from are located in Sheridan College in Mississauga and Sheridan College in Brampton. Just go to our website and give us a call. The registration process is pretty straightforward.
To answer your question why I left my job, I analyzed that there is a huge need here. I was noticing how much difference the program was making to the children in the program. Typically within the first few months of being in the program, the child would get ahead by at least three years [in terms of math learning].
Arshad: It is quite true unfortunately the parents have to look for quick fixes when the child comes in Grade 9 or 10. The tutor then focuses on selective math concepts just to make them pass the current grade. Unfortunately, it leaves many learning gaps. What is the attitude towards math in our community? I generally see people running away from math. Quite obviously, if math is ignored at the school level, it becomes harder for the child in university.
Shehreen: Unfortunately the system in Ontario does not have enough good math teachers in public schools. In addition, the children are not assigned sufficient practice to learn math. Math does not come without practice. The problem is that, by the time the child reaches Grade 9 or 10, it may be too late for them to learn the basics or work on the foundation. Then they look for quick ways [short cuts] to pass their school course. The best solution is to pay attention to the child’s math at a younger age. At least get your children’s math assessments done and ensure that their math knowledge is up to par. Please make sure that they don’t have any foundational gaps in knowledge.
The second major problem I see in Ontario is that teachers generously give A grades to students , which is not reflective of their true knowledge for their grade level.
Arshad: Obviously short-cuts in learning for the sake of completing assignments are not helpful in the long run. Unless you know the first principles, it can cause trouble for children in the future.
Your program is from Kindergarten to Grade 12. How do you register in the program? For Onsite, it must be after school hours during weekdays.
Shehreen: Yes, evenings and weekends.
Arshad: Do people go to your website, www.MathProject.ca in order to contact you for registration?
Shehreen: […] You don’t need to register initially. What’s more pressing is that you get your child assessed to see what level they are at.
Arshad: Do you give them an assessment test?
Shehreen: For the assessment, you just give us a call on the 1-800 number listed on our website. We do a completely free assessment to identify any learning gaps. Then we advise you off the study plan accordingly. The assessment is completely free of cost and there’s no condition to join the program. But at least get your child assessed.
Arshad: I understand that you left your profession to pursue your passion. However, there must be some fee associated with the program. Is it affordable for the community?
Shehreen: Yes, there is a tuition fee. It’s competitive but, relative to other programs, it’s quite cost effective.
Arshad: Ok. Generally what sort of response are you getting now? Since the program is now online, are you accepting students from all over the world?
Shehreen: Yes, we received a great response from the US. Majority of our students are Canadian and US residents.
Arshad: These days, most programs are online. There is still confusion in the GTA regarding the opening of schools due to the pandemic. How do you motivate kids online?
Shehreen: A child’s motivation is the most important factor for us too. We spent a lot of time and resources on training our teachers to ensure that the child is motivated. I believe that a child’s motivation in math is most important, even more important than his or her math grades. That is something that we work on. We use multiple strategies to motivate a child. […] There is an entire training manual that our teachers go through and also constantly get formal training on. We keep the child motivated through interaction, and use various strategies.
Arshad: Are you offering any summer courses to work on any learning gaps before the next grade begins? So that children can upgrade their learning in advance?
Shehreen: Of course we do. Basically there are three types of programs we offer.
1) Our elementary program [for Kindergarten to Grade 8] is offered all year round, and students can join at any time because it’s customized for each child. We follow our curriculum but it’s customized for every student.
2) Then we have our high school program, in which we ensure that the students stay ahead of their school by teaching them whatever they are going to be studying in their school at least two weeks in advance.
3) Then we have our third program, which is one on one. It is customized to address any learning need. For example, if there’s a particular university course or admission test or a specific exam that you need to prepare for, we take care of those learning needs there.
Arshad: It’s good that you cater to all these math learning needs. In order to get more information, we can contact you through your website or the phone number listed on your website.
Arshad: Shehreen, is there anything else you would like to add in the end?
Shehreen: I would like to address something that bothers me a lot. It is that parents should not take this lightly. A lot of parents feel that dropping maths [in school] is an option. Trust me, you are closing doors to many great career options if, in this day and age, you drop math at a high school level or sooner.
I would strongly advise parents to get their children assessed at the right time. The earlier you get them assessed, the better it is. An interesting observation [about Math Project] is that within a few months of being enrolled in our program, the kids get far ahead of their current grade levels. Then, they don’t even need tutoring by the time they reach high school. It is one of my primary goals that the students should not depend on tutoring.
Arshad: Thank you very much, Shehreen, for being in the program. Wish you very good luck. Keep up the good work. Thank you.
Shehreen: Thanks for having me over.
Arshad’s Concluding Remarks
Arshad: Many people develop fear of math. However, as Shehreen also said, failing to overcome this fear at the right age and giving up early on in life closes many great future paths for children. Unfortunately, lack of proper guidance is a huge problem for us and for our kids. Even though there may be advisors in schools and universities, a child may still feel overwhelmed by the subject, regardless of one’s aptitude.
Please encourage your child and keep their motivation high for math. Understanding math leads to opening up many avenues in terms of future career opportunities, which in turn leads to becoming a good citizen and a good professional. If you require any information in terms of math learning, you can visit mathproject.ca!
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