P5 Problem Sums Exam Strategies For My Girls

My P5 Problem Sums Proven Exam Strategies For My Girls

To my girls,

As your father, I would never know if I’m still around tomorrow.

Like my own father who had passed on when I was very young, I always wanted to have my knowledge to be available in books (and now websites) so that they can serve you well whenever you need them.

What you’re about to read is compiled based on the thousands of students and parents our team had coached and helped in our Problem Sums Mastery programme.

To start off, I want to share with you a very important skill. This is the goal for you. Not just in school. But also in your life.

You need to study smarter. That’s by learning and mastering Concepts, Processes and Skills. (C.P.S)

Read on for your more detailed study smart plan. 🙂

Your Master Study Plan for January and February (just before your CA1)

Normally in the beginning of January, this is the your more relaxed period.

It’s the period when you and many of your friends are getting used to the new stage of life.

Take 1-2 weeks to get use to school, your new class and your fellow classmates. After which, you must start to revise all your P4’s math content.

Why Do This When You’re Already Now in P5?

Because you will soon be tested in how well you can integrate and apply P4 content in this upcoming P5 CA1. (Your P4 math knowledge is your P5’s math foundation.)

Here’s what you should do at this stage (in steps).

#1: Retrieve your P4 math CA1, SA1, CA2 and SA2 papers.

#2: Go through all the short-answer questions (SAQ) and problem sums diligently.

#3: For all those right questions, skim through them while identifying the concept.

For example, “What is the remainder when 1928 is divided by 6?”

Yes, it’s important to know how to solve it.

However, for the fact you have gotten it right before, you know how to find the answer.

What’s even more important now is to ask yourself

  • How will you solve similar questions (if you ever see them again)?
  • What is the key step to start off with for long division?
  • How do you know if your remainder is the correct one?

#4: Get a paper notebook. Record all these sample questions together with the key concepts and methodology.

You just need one sample question for every concept.

This Is The Power Of Learning By Concepts.

You just need to read and learn one to be able to answer all.

This paper notebook is going to be your personal P4 summary book.

Once it’s compiled with all the sample questions of all the exams, you just need this ONE book just before your P5 CA1 to revise your P4 math content.

This is going to save you from many late nights.

Here’s A Story About Securing A-star. (Plus The Effective Study Tips You Must Remember)

A P6 girl once asked me how she could get and maintain her A-star grade. We worked out a plan and she diligently followed every step.

(Yes, she got her A-star for Prelim and PSLE.)

  • Get a paper note/ exercise book.
  • Record those questions that they couldn’t get right.
  • Write the solutions. Make key notes on the key concepts/ steps.
  • Do for all the questions.

From our experience of having coached thousands of students, the amount of effort your child put in is proportional to the marks she will get.

High achievers normally use different smart learning/ study strategies to achieve phenomenal results.

Eventually their effort paid off. =)

#5: For all those wrong P4 exam questions, I strongly urge you to cover your corrections, redo them with a fresh perspective.

The common mistake of having done corrections is this.

It’s to assume you have fully understood it and can solve the same question if it ever appears again.

Anyway, it won’t take long if you think you have really understood them. Don’t skip any of this.

Because how well you do for your P5 depends on your P4 math foundation.

#6: Now, prepare another paper notebook. You’re going to summarize what’s being taught in P5.

As the term has just started and the teaching pace is generally slower at the beginning of the year, you should have time to do a quick and concise summary for the topic covered.

#7: Riding on #6, pick up the other schools’ past years exam papers that you may have. Don’t attempt to complete the exam paper at one go. (This is what most others will do.)

What you should do differently is to identify the questions that are testing you on the current topic you are taught.

Next, write the title of the topic next to the question number and highlight the key components of the questions. They could be key numbers or words. (This also tells you that not every word in a question is important.)

After you have solve the question, write down the key concepts/ steps in any space next to the questions.

This part is crucial because first, it refrains you from jumping to the next question without recapping what you have done and second, it trains you to see the purpose of setting math questions as testing you concepts. “So do you know what concept is being tested for this or that?”

Use different colored pens. But stick to your system of solving a problem sum. (Yes, even problem solving process comes with a system and you should follow this strictly. It gives you the results you want. That is right answer with correct and fast solving method.)

Proven System = Predictable Results

Next for color coding, green for key words and numbers, blue for topic title and purple for concept.

Rinse and repeat whenever a new topic is taught. Do not wait.

#8: You will have common/ class test. Do not take any class quiz or test lightly.

Of course, I want you to enjoy it.

What daddy really mean is treat every quiz/ test as an opportunity to help yourself better understand what you know/ how much you remember.

What about making mistakes?

It’s totally ok. Learn from it and move on. (This is the same thing I shared with all our students in our Math Programme.)

#9: So much has been covered but I haven’t covered the most important part.

Do you know the Difference between Short Topical Questions and Problem Sums (with Various Concepts)?

Short topical questions are direct questions with very straight forward answers. These are some examples.

Express 30 kg 36 g in grams.

Round off 785 435 to the nearest thousand.

Find the value of 6 x 8 + 60 – 7.

Problem sums are normally bonded by a concept or two. To tackle them, do not treat them as topics. Identify the key words to spot the primary concept/ problem sum type.

Then solve the problem sums using the main method.

For example…

“Lincoln has $165 worth of $5 notes and $2 notes. He has five more $5 notes than $2 notes. How many notes does Lincoln has?”

If you have no idea how to solve, I have prepared the below video for you.

Are you able to recognise that the key words are “five more” and the concept is “Grouping”?

Using the next problem sum as an example, are you able to recognise that it’s “Same difference”?

“Thila was 38 years old and her son was 5 years old 3 years ago. In how many years time from now will Thila be 4 times as old as her son?”

To find out how to solve, watch the video below.

As shown in my Problem Sums Guide for Parents, there are 11 basic problem sums types you must know by CA1. (Yah so many. Not much time left. That’s why you must start now.)

1. Remainder concept
2. Equal concept
3. One unchanged

4. Same difference
5. Total unchanged
6. Simultaneous

7. Guess and check
8. External unequal change
9. Working backwards

10. Number of units x value
11. Gap and difference

Make sure you can execute these 3 steps for every concept

  1.  Identify the key words
  2. Know the concept
  3. Use the primary fastest method

Watch this video on my 5-step process to solve any problem sum.

Here’s More You-Must-Always-Remember Tips

(as you enjoy new your school year)

Tip 1: It will be your first time to attempt a full PSLE paper in P5 CA1. You will see paper 1 (booklet A and B) and paper 2.

Give yourself some space and room to explore.

Though the format of the papers are different, the time you allocated to every question and to secure every single mark is the same.

A good way to gauge your own speed is to use this

1 mark = 1 minute

For example, for a 2-mark question, you can use 2 minutes.

What happens if you’re still stuck when the time is up?

Two choices. Move on to the next question.

Or spend at most another minute and after which, you MUST Move On.

Tip 2: Watch this video I had made for our students. Please avoid this mistake.

Do not compartmentalise what you have learnt.

Everything else is inter-related.

Tip 3: Take a note of the sample answers below and tell me which ones do you like the most.

Answer Sample A

Answer Sample B

Answer Sample C

Answer Sample D

Answer Sample E

Probably you have seen the distinct differences in how these right and wrong answers are presented.

Which one do you prefer to mark if you’re a teacher? (and you know you have over 200 exam papers to mark and submit in 5 days’ time)

So a few things here.

  1. Make your handwriting neat. (Teachers have hundreds of scripts to mark. So please make it easy for them to read and to award your marks.)
  2. Organised steps. (You realise from the answer samples that clear thinking process brings about clear steps. So if your steps look illegible/ disorganised/ confusing, it probably shows you are unclear of how to start or solve. So stay calm and clear the clutters off your head. Focus and your solutions will be neater.)

You probably had realised by now that solutions of students, who score high marks, look tidy and are easy to mark. (Their answers almost look like the model answers that many others can learn/ study from.)

I want you to learn from them. Observe what they’re doing. (Success leaves traces.)

Here’s a final study tip for you.

Make sure you show clear, concise steps even when doing home revision.

Treat all revision (be it in school or home) seriously.

I really believe you can do it. Most importantly, I want you to believe in yourself that you can do it too and you’re going to do your best.

Love you,


(John Yeo, founder and chief math trainer for LOB Math Programmes)


3 More Effective Ways in Analysing Your Child’s Exam Paper

3 More Effective Ways in Analysing Your Child’s Exam Paper

‘I got my child’s recent math exam paper. So many mistakes. How to go through?’

No idea where to start?

Let me share with you how I do it.

Did the analysis with a kid and he realised he lost over 20 marks for Category 1 mistakes.

(And because of this clear grouping, he realised that he ISN’T weak in math.)

If you had gone through your child’s paper and you know you need some help in pointing out your child’s roadblocks to getting higher marks for the next exam, all you need to do is this.

To signal your interest in signing up for a paid CA paper review, do email us with 3 things to support@learningoutofthebox.org
[Last 5 slots!]

1. Your name,
2. Your contact number
3. Your child’s level

On this episode, I talk about
– How you can help your child easily break down his mistakes into these 3 distinct groups
– So he can learn how to secure more marks from the ‘lowest hanging fruits’ group first.

The Most Important Exam Skill That 7 out of 10 Kids We Asked Lack

The Most Important Exam Skill That 7 out of 10 Kids We Asked Lack

What is the most important skill that most children lack for exam?

Not really memory skill.
Possibly not calculation skill.
And also not visualising skill.

No doubt these are important too.

But one of the least taught skills (and is really crucial for your child’s exam success) is application skill.

That is teaching your kid exactly how to start solving.

(Why least taught? Possibly it’s one of the hardest skills to master.)

Application skill is really important to your child because your child must know how to start solving a problem sum. While being all alone in the exam room. Without you or any one to turn to for help.

Not sure if this has ever happened to you.

‘My child can do the exam papers at home. I sat beside him. He scored high marks.
But he got very low score for his real exam.’

Whenever we probed a little more, we normally heard this reply.

Parent: ‘Okay, sometimes I gave him a little hint here and there.’

Content-based learning is overly emphasized in most traditional teaching.

Buy these 10 assessment books. (You get another 2 free.)
Get all the top school papers. The harder the better.
Sign up for 2 lessons per week. Why not 3 or 4? Isn’t it “better”?

These are the more common tactics to help children who struggle in math.

Yesterday, I was doing a sharing with our parents.

Most agreed that they’re quite clueless when it comes to how to guide their children in math.
At most what they can do is like what you and I would possibly have done too.

(Like how our own parents have taught us when we were kids.)

That is to do more and more and more questions.

However, having said this, the most common reason that had made this same group of parents put their children under our care is this.

They see the importance of having their children to learn and eventually master application skills.

Would you want your child to do his homework without your nagging?
Would you want your child to do more math questions without being told to?
Would you want to hear that your child has already completed his math revision (with minimal or no guidance)?

Not sure about you. BUT Yes, this is what I (as a parent with two girls) want to hear from my daughters.

Getting anyone (even adults) to eventually master a set of skills and to have it internalised is definitely not easy.

That is also why most traditional tuition programme prefer to choose the content-based route.

It’s really so much easier. (You know that too.)

2 hours with the tutor. Just get the child do from this page to that page. And it’s either marked right or wrong. Isn’t that easy?

But for this different group of parents, they strongly believe in mastering skillsets while building interest is the way to go.

If you feel you belong to this group of parents, your child will benefit greatly!

His confidence will grow and he will have good self-esteem.
Eventually he will become a self-directed learner because you’ve taught him to love to learn.

Having talked to many parents who came to us for help, we also realised in some schools, this is rising trend

1. Math questions are getting harder and more challenging
2. Questions are pegged to real life situations which children should be able to relate to
2. Learning skills is becoming the bigger focus
3. Students are expected to apply what they have learnt in classroom to exams.

Eventually, as parents, we just want the best for our kids. However, with the fast-changing trends, we parents are always playing catch up.

So my suggestion is to help your child learn some skills too, so he can at least do some work by himself. (Yeah, less stress for you too. ;p)

I’m not saying you got to change your whole approach of teaching your kids. No.

Just a little tweak here and there and here is what you can do to continue to guide your child.

1. Exchange role with your child.

Get your child to play the role of a teacher and teach you. You can ask questions like ‘How do I start?’, ‘What is the key word?’ and ‘What is the concept?’ Follow through with more questions till you arrive at the final answer.

This allows him to close his own loop and complete his overall thinking process.

2. Do less questions and emphasize more on problem solving process.

Remember the K-C-N-S-U we taught your child? Get him to highlight the key words and numbers before solving it. Get him to share with you his plan verbally before he writes his first word. In short, allow him to articulate out his solving process. It gets clearer for him and will help him to speed up his actual solving process.

3. Get him to mark his own work.

I had many parents telling me that they marked their kids’ work because it’s faster. (There’s no time lah! SO busy!)

A more effective way is to get your child to rest for 10 minutes after he has completed his work. Then get him to mark and explain to you why he got those questions wrong and how he will go about solving it again – step-by-step.

In our children’s generation, skillsets is one of the MOST important survival skills they must master. Not just in school. But also for life.

That’s all I want to share in this post. ‘Time for lunch. Now is 11.40am.

Hope these 3 tips can really help you in coaching your kids to start learning process skills.


Why Mastering Processes and Skillsets is Absolutely Critical

Why Mastering Processes and Skillsets is Absolutely Critical

Picture this with me. You’re a P5 math teacher.

You had a really bad day. Lessons didn’t go as well as you had planned and you feel really tired.

On the right side of your desk is a huge pile of math exam papers.

You’re too tired to count them. But from experience of marking them, you know there’re about 103 sets.

Tomorrow is the dateline for marks submission and you’re barely half-way through.

While you know you need to do your best to complete your marking, part of your mind wonders who can pick your child up from the child care if you can’t finish on time.

As you push through the day, you can’t help it but to worry about your kid as you continue to mark.

At times you pick up papers with untidy handwriting. The steps were all over the place. It seemed to you these students had either rushed through their workings (because of time shortage) or they had no idea what they’re writing.

As you move on to the next paper, the handwriting you see got worse.

You pick up the next paper. (Another 11 minutes before the school gate will be locked.)

So neat, so organised, so detailed.

It’s so easy to mark. You award all the marks this child deserved to get for that question.

Within 3 minutes, you realise you’ve give this child FULL marks for this so-called VERY TOUGH problem sum.

You get curious and you flip over the paper. You recognise the name.

One of high achievers in the class.

Have you ever seen solutions of high achiever?

In fact, most look like the model answers for markers.

This explains why most markers love to mark their work.

It’s so easy to mark their working steps and to give them the marks they deserve.

Every step has a clear statement, explaining the reason for that step.

In addition, it also shows the marker that the student understood the concepts too.

Starting from the first step to the final step seemed to be a natural flow of a straight line.
Every step is linked.

To the marker, the next natural thing to do is to award this child her full marks.

So you want your child to get better grades too?

Ensure your child master processes and skills too. (This is what high achievers do. They’re masters of these.)

Key word (K):

Before diving in to solve any problem sum, do highlight the key words which define the concept. For example, the key word “remainder” tells you is remainder concept.

Concept (C):

Most high achievers know the existence of concepts. This is why most can solve the problem sums much faster than average students. By the time your child reach P6, he should know a total of 12 basic concepts. How many do your child know now?

Numbers (N):

High achievers are resourceful too. They made use of what they’re given. They zoomed into the numbers and diligently circle or highlight them. By doing this, their eyes are also focused on the numbers while their mind is always on a constant thinking mode of when to use them.

Statements (S):

High achievers have time to check their work. In fact, they plan to have time to check their work. They also plan that their checking process is smooth-sailing.

How so? They write statements beside every working step. So right after they have completed their papers, they go back to the problem sums and they check by going through their statements.

Without statements mean that you need to redo the question and spending twice the amount of time.

Units (U):

Finally, teach your child to always write units. Generally, half mark is deducted for the wrong/ no unit.

This simple 5-step K-C-N-S-U is a proven process we have coached many students, both average students and high achievers to score at least 20 marks within a very short time.

This works so well that it had helped some students, who were always stuck at 80+, to get at least 90+ within a few months.

Start getting your child to learn a proven process to start improving. To find out how, do sign up for your free 30-mins phone consultation.

=> http://studysmart.learningoutofthebox.org/free-math-consultation/

Math Tuition vs Math Coaching

A P5 boy, who hated math, came to our centre.

No, his mother brought him here. (So he didn’t come willingly.)

‘Where’s your son?’ I asked the mom when I saw her in our centre.

‘He’s stuck at your door.’

It took a while for his son to come in, without being forced.

He’s a math hater. He only likes to play soccer.

Fast forward three months, he scored his first B. (He had been failing since P3)

Mother was shocked. She had a home tutor who had been tutoring his son for the past 3 years. Never got past the 50-mark.

‘All his tutor gave him was just assessment books and more assessment books. You know I couldn’t teach so I believe his math tutor. But you’re different. You gave him his self-confidence back. Now he can even do his math homework without me nagging at him.

This is THE difference between math tuition and math coaching.

Traditional math tutors generally just go through the math questions with the students.

‘You don’t know how to do this question. I teach you how. You don’t know how for that. I teach you how.’

(Rinse and repeat)

But math coaches put at least 5 times more the effort and time.

They first befriend the child, understand the child’s weakness and strength in math, find out why he dislike math and then develope a plan to work together with the child on his problem sums concepts.

Compared to normal math tutoring, math coaching is harder and require more energy, patience and empathy. (This is why most tutors prefer not to go by this route. Just giving questions and more questions is the easy way out. Just mark and give more.)

In another instance, a P4 girl attended our math coaching programme just for 2 months. Her marks jumped from 60+ to 80+.

She was so happy that she jumped on her mom when she showed her the paper.

Mom was so happy. Plus shocked because her ex-tutor (who self-proclaimed he’s the top math tutor in Singapore) was not able to help the girl move past the 80-mark after so many years.

But we could do it within 2 months.

So what did we do differently?

We realised the girl hated math.

But she wanted to do well. Just that she felt that learning math was boring.

What we do is we used game-based learning to reignite her interest.

We also gave her 3 questions as homework for a start. (I know most parents would feel 3 is too little.)
Even the girl’s mommy was skeptical at first.

‘Just 3 questions? Isn’t it a waste of her free time?’

Soon, the mom realised for herself why we did this.

Just after the first lesson, the girl got so motivated that she did 4 questions (instead of the 3 we gave her.)

From then on, she became a self-motivated learner and did more questions by herself.

Mom had never seen her so motivated before.

Scoring 80+ got mom convinced our math coaching programme is totally different from math tuition.

What we did is we motivated her to self-discover her reason to learn math.

What her ex-tutor did was just give her more questions. (which she hated)

The last check with her mom is she doesn’t need any tutor to help her anymore. (So another difference, math coaches work with your child to become a self-directed learner. And I know it’s what most parents want. Right? ;p)

So if you’re a parent who wants your child to only do questions after questions (most children get bored and eventually shut off), it’s ok to look for a tutor.

However, if you’re a parent who wants your child to like to learn math so that eventually she can learn to be self-motivated, look for a math coaching programme.

To find out if our math coaching programme can help your child, you can sign up for our free math consultation today.

=> http://studysmart.learningoutofthebox.org/free-math-consultation/