Singapore Math Guru

The Ultimate Guide To Acing PSLE Mathematics Part 1

This is the ultimate guide to preparing for PSLE Mathematics, gathered from the expertise and experiences of our teachers and parents. Since we are a video solutions on demand service to primary school math with more than 10,000 exam questions, we will be focusing on strategies and tips for primary school math. If your child is only in lower primary, or in primary 4 or primary 5, you have an even bigger advantage if you are reading this now.

Failing or getting worse results?

Believe it or not, if you really want your child to get the A star, the preparation does not start in primary 5 or 6. Yes! If you really want it , it all starts in primary 4. Yes, I am repeating it. That’s because many parents only start to take primary school math seriously only when their children fail in primary 5. For the better students, primary 5 would have already been a success. While primary 4 is a breeze to many students, primary 5 just kills your self esteem. Suddenly, your child will be wondering why he or she can’t do math.

The reason for this, in our opinion, is the vast array of strategies that they are exposed to at this stage, which really can be quite confusing. If parents, adults and teachers find some of these questions confusing, then our children must find them even more confusing!

During the course of this year, ask around and you will find many of your child’s peers failing math. While they used to score in the 90s for a paper in primary 3 and 4, all of a sudden, scoring 60 to 70 is the norm. There are even many that fail primary 5 Mathematics. This series of occurrences will ruin the confidence of many students.

To Algebra or not?

The stress becomes unbearable and there is this mad rush to get the right tutor. And if you find a tutor that is not acquainted with primary school math, algebra will be their main method for solving some of the tougher questions. Just a note on algebra though, it is not recommended for primary school students, unless, in cases that absolutely require them. If not, it is not recommended to use algebra in primary school math.

While algebra can be used to solve many of the primary school Mathematics questions you find in some of these exam papers, would you expect your children to be able to set X as an unknown variable and Y as an unknown variable, form 2 equations, manipulate these variables along with fractions and decimals, equate, solve and factorize if necessary?  By the way, what I have just described is learnt in secondary 1 and secondary 2, and rarely mastered fully even in secondary 2. Do you really want your child to learn all of that from a grad tutor when your child has been exposed to a very visual way of solving Mathematics questions for so many years. Well, don’t take our word for it.

place value

Which image has 43 circles?

Flip open your textbooks from My Pal written by Dr Fong or Shaping Math and you will find a very pictorial way of teaching primary school Mathematics, endorsed by MOE. You will be able to find place value charts which teaches all about the thousands place, hundreds place, tens place and the ones place, organised into a table. (Do take a look at our primary 1 to primary 3 questions as well. A lot of these are covered. Track your progress with our tools and database of questions)

Even when it came to addition and subtraction with regrouping, the place value charts are a very popular tool that is being used to help a child visualize the process. Also, your child has been exposed to models for years by primary 5. A fraction 1/7, to your child means : Draw 7 boxes and then shade one of those 7 boxes.

Also, comparison models are often used for comparison. Take for instance :

John has 20 more than Mary.

To your child, this means :

John has 1 box unit and 20 more, signified by an extension of that box while Mary has just 1 box unit.

I am not sure if you are convinced at this point but your algebraic methods are hard on your child’s brain. They wouldn’t work here with your child unless your child can be classified as a higher ability student.

We are not saying that algebra is useless. It is just hard on your child at this point. In other instances of course, algebraic thinking is necessary for solving a question. Examples include “simultaneous concept questions” and/or “2 variables changed” questions. These questions by the way are all found in our database. Please attempt them. It is absolutely free. We only charge for access to our 330 hours of video solutions.

So algebra methods? Not all the time. Maybe, sometimes.

For the next part in this series, venture on to The Ultimate Guide To Acing PSLE Mathematics Part 2 !