Two decades ago, we were taught a different technique (which I can hardly remember what it was) to tackle the P6 Math problems. Two decades later, the math arena has changed so much that even some adults who were graduates had difficulties trying to solve the PSLE math questions.
This also means that whatever techniques we had once learnt are already outdated and are not suitable for our children of this new internet age.
However, what continue to fascinate us is that though the academic field has changed so much, the basic needs of our children remain the same. Children basically still needs affirmation, love and encouragement. Each of them still does have their unique strength which should be discovered and leverage upon so that they can do well in school and in life.
While there may be some of our techniques which you have found out to work well or not so well for your children, in this article, we want to share with you some of our best tips for PSLE Maths that has worked consistently well for our students.
Our 7 Math secrets –
1. Structured Learning
Is your child’s revision structured and organized? What are your child’s revision and learning strategy beside working on assessment books and school papers? How do you use these resources effectively so that your child does not feel drained and get sick of doing all these boring stuff?
In the eyes of children, working on questions, questions and more questions can be suffocating. Whenever they feel tired, the performance level falls. This happens to adults too. So in our Stacking and Batching techniques which we used for our coaching sessions, we have to either break these questions into manageable groups according to topics or how your child respond to them.
If they are broken into topics, the number one objective for your child is to learn as much as he can for one topic at any given amount of time and his understanding will be tested by working on small batches of problems and he will be given instant feedback so that he knows what he knows and what he doesn’t.
2. Identification of Careless Mistakes
In general there are 6 types of careless mistakes such as writing the wrong numbers, converting to wrong units and forgetting to write the answer in the required space. Many parents come to me seeking help to help their children to kick their habit of making “careless mistakes”.
However, not knowing the exact type of careless mistake which the child is making can doing the child a disservice because the root of their problem is not tackled.
In actual fact, many children are able to have their Math grades jumped by one or two grades after they become fully conscious of the careless mistakes they are making. So this becomes the lowest hanging fruits for most children and this becomes one of the first areas we will always work on with the children during the first few of their coaching sessions.
3. Leverage on Strengths
Another P6 Maths Secret is that every child has his strength and most of the times, this basic understanding that every child is different has been long forgotten by most educators as they rush to get every child in the classrooms to move at the same pace so that all the topics can be covered before exam comes.
At the same time, they are assuming that every child is absorbing and learning at the same speed and they are expected to get the same grade which also means that they have to do very well in school.
Let’s remember that math covers a range of different topics testing different skills such as being able to see 3 dimensional objects, being able to understand the language and being able to correctly use the given info, lay them out in the right manner while remembering to apply the correct concepts.
(Times have changed. Problems have evolved to more than just simple addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.)
So every child has strength that can help them to excel in particular topics. By not doing well in math doesn’t mean that they are poor in everything related to math. Most just need more time to understand certain topics and to correctly apply the concepts to solve that particular question. In fact, many studies have shown that children who are labelled as under achievers, if given more time and guidance, are ale to out -perform top achievers once they clear their hurdles.
4. Consistent Bite-size Homework
Children love to test how much they know and how much they can do. Maybe some mommies are going to tell me that “I have to shout at my child to get him to do his homework.” I’m serious when children love to learn.
In fact, from my 10 years of experience working and coaching children, the right environment has to be created for learning to take place.
In our team, we advocate for consistent bite-size practice. It means that a child is given a few questions to do daily. Instead of receiving huge chunks of homework like 1 set of exam paper and two worksheets consisting of 10 questions per page, doing just 3 to 5 questions per day become more manageable for children. The most important aspect is instead of rejecting homework, children can manage to do their work and this will somehow encourage them to do their work better.
5. Word Problems Strategies
Most children froze when they see word problems. The longer these questions are, the more they freeze. In fact, the longer the questions, the happier we should be because long questions have more info to be harvested.
So the next step to manage long questions is to develop a fixed approach that will not change regardless of the length or type of the questions. It is pretty similar to fighting off life problems in adult life. Regardless of the nature or the difficulty level, the ideal way is to look at it and to ask ourselves how best we can work things out and then finally, execute some steps to get the problem solved. Solving word problems require the same approach too and children will learn about resilience while going through the process of problem solving.
6. Motivating the child inside-out
We love to motivate a child inside-out because the idea is to grow every child we coach into a self-motivated individual and rely less on external help. And having learnt the best learning strategy which fits the child, the child will be able to refine it and to reapply it to his secondary school life.
What is in fact happening in today’s society is that most children have to be told to do their homework, to revise for their upcoming tests or to prepare for their PSLE. It will definitely lighten a parent’s load (including financially) and lessen their worries when their children become self-motivated young persons and take their own initiatives to do their school work and revise for their tests and exams.
7. Going through the process
This last secret is the most important aspect of the entire cycle. While people in general are getting used to instant gratification, it is important to children to go through the entire process to learn, to apply what has been learnt and to receive feedback on what has been done. This experience will help children to learn skills such as goal setting and learning resilience, something which he may be not able to learn in school.
For example, the best way to work on word problems is to get their hands dirty by working on actual problems and struggling to write the first few sentences while having no idea where it will lead to. Sometimes, it is discovering the right way after having taken the wrong paths and knowing which ways to avoid.