Mathematics can be quite the headache even for parents who don’t have to sit for examinations themselves. With Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE) coming up, knowing how to help your child do well in this subject becomes an even more pressing concern.
We’ve heard you! We spoke with Jimmy Ling of the Jimmy Maths and Grade Solution Learning Centre and asked some tips. Here’s a list of useful things to keep in mind during PSLE Mathematics to bring your child closer to the A grade.
About the PSLE Math Paper Format
The PSLE Math Paper consists of numerous components, all of them holding different weightages constituting the final grade. It is important to know the stakes so you and your child know which section to direct more focus to.
Paper 1, with its Multiple Choice Questions (MCQ) and Short Answer segment, makes up 45 per cent of the total (20 marks MCQ + 25 marks Short Answer). Thus, Paper 2 naturally takes the larger slice of the pie, with the Problem Sums category adding up to a whopping 45 marks just on its own (10 marks Short Answer + 45 marks Problem Sums, for a total of 55 for Paper 2). It’s no surprise then that students tend to struggle with problem sums the most.
Math is not memorisation work
While it is true to some extent that practice makes perfect, practicing blindly will not make your child a genius in the numbers game. Math is not about memorising solutions—it is about the accurate APPLICATION of solutions. Solutions are not really solutions if you don’t understand them. Thus, the key to helping children understand how to solve a problem is to ensure they are well-versed in the core mathematical concepts behind the question. A strong conceptual foundation can help your child identify question types and craft solutions that tackle the question with greater ease.
And so the next time your little mathematician comes across a similar question type, your child will be more confident in solving the problem because he or she has full grasp of the concepts behind the question and solution, than if he or she were to memorise solutions without getting the basics. In cases like this, a slight tweak in the question formatting is good enough to throw your child off-guard and really master the concepts.
Quality over quantity
“Drilling” past-year papers and assessment books is not the sure way of improving your child’s math grade. “Your child does not have to practice many questions. Instead, your child needs to practice the right kind of question,” said math tutor Jimmy Ling. He recommends a way to sift out the right questions from practice papers for your child to attempt, based on his or her weaknesses.
First, when your child solves a sum, make it a habit to get him or her to write down the mathematical concept that corresponds to the question. Then, you will be able to identify the type of questions that your child scores badly in after going through the answers at the end of every practice session. Target these conceptual weaknesses by selecting similar questions from past papers and getting your child to work on them consistently!
The more (concepts), the merrier
It’s always good to advise your child to explore more ways of solving a math problem. According to Jimmy Ling, there are instances where there can be more than a single solution when it comes to mathematical sums. Thus, knowing more than one concept and solution to tackle a problem is a sturdy backup plan for your child during the examination.
Practice time management
In all examinations, time management is of utmost importance. Not being able to complete a paper within the given time can cost your child a hefty penalty in terms of grade. One big issue that students encounter during the PSLE Math examination is the lack of time to complete the last few questions of the paper, which could turn out to be a deadly mistake.
Typically, the final questions in the paper carry more marks that those in the beginning—this is especially true for PSLE Math Paper 1. There is a common misconception that the last few questions are generally the most challenging, but this may not always be true. You may be surprised at how generous examiners can be when they allocate more marks to simple sums at the back of the paper.
Thus, it is important to practice good time management so that your child does not miss out on questions entirely. Even if your child is unable to solve the question completely, you can always count on method marks to value-add your child’s grade. Leaving entire questions blank is an immediate zero point!
Be aware of key terms in the question
In math equations, the question contains all the information and hints your child needs to solve the problem. Thus, it is important to pay extra attention to the key terms in the question to know where it is leading to. Example of some common keywords are: more than, less than, twice the, equals to, at first, of the remainder, has X times more, and has X times less, to name a few. Ensure also that your child takes note of all the numbers included in the question. No numbers are redundant, and they all contribute in helping your child derive the right answer.