Friday, 16 January 2015

Parents go for Maths Tuition


AS HE copied the solution to the maths problem sum onto his worksheet, he realised that he was lost.
Primary school mathematics is tough.
But this was not a primary school pupil struggling with the question. He was a father of two in a course on primary school maths.
He was one of several parents going for "tuition" so they can better understand what their children have to deal with in school.
On Dec 6, Mohd Yusof Maruwi, who is in his early 60s, and his wife, Sanisah Ismail, 45, attended an eight-hour session on solving primary school maths problems. It was held at a multi-purpose room at Muhajirin Mosque.
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Kudos to these highly commendable parents, who have taken the initiative to learn Primary School Maths to teach their children!

Despite sounding slightly ridiculous at first, tuition for parents is actually a good idea, especially if one of the parents (e.g. the mother) is a stay-at-home parent. This is because no matter how often a child goes for tuition, the tuition teacher can't accompany the child 24 hours, whereas the parent can.

Also, if the parent can do maths, it inspires the child and builds confidence. Imagine how demoralised a child may feel if the Maths problem is so difficult that even his beloved father and mother whom he/she looks up to can't solve it!

As a former Primary School Maths Tutor (I have since moved on to tutoring at secondary level onwards), I have to admit that some of the PSLE questions can be real tough. Even as a math graduate from NUS with years of experience, and an A* for PSLE Maths, I have to crack my brains and put on my thinking cap just to solve a PSLE question using elementary methods like model drawing. No wonder children will find it tough!

Also, some of the questions are designed to be tough for students using the traditional recommended method of model drawing. Examples of these kind of questions is when the model is 3 units, but the question requires dividing the 3 units into two. This leads to "half a unit" which is problematic, unless the student knows what to do (subdivide each unit into two smaller parts). Hence, students equipped with just the standard skill set of "draw model" naturally will find it very difficult to solve the problem.

A student who has mastered algebra at primary 6 level actually has a huge advantage over his peers. Most PSLE questions can be reduced to pair of linear simultaneous equations with two variables. This is amazingly easy to solve for those who have mastered solving such equations. However, this is a highly controversial method in pedagogy, since there are many who insist that algebra should not be taught so early.

If parents do not have the time or budget to go for tuition (also tuition teachers who teach parents are still currently rare), the next best thing is to read a maths book. Books like Step by Step Model Drawing: Solving Word Problems the Singapore Way, written by Singapore Math expert Dr Yeap Ban Har, will enlighten parents on the divine art of drawing models. Model drawing will be able to solve 80%-90% of all PSLE Math questions, other than those questions specially designed to be anti-model, or model-unfriendly.

For the remaining 10% of problems (usually the last few problem sums) that are anti-model, trying to use the model method will lead to epic frustration. An algebra-model hybid approach using "u" for units, and "p" for parts would most likely be the ideal solution. A book like Practical Algebra: A Self-Teaching Guide, Second Edition, would be what parents need to refresh their memory on Algebra.

Another fantastic book suitable for parents:

Finally, do check out a list of GEP Books for parents who are interested in preparing their child for GEP:

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