This is a guest post by Alex Devadass, a former Vice Principal from MOE Singapore who has many years’ of experience in PSLE Math.
Do your children perform to their best when it comes to Mathematics in primary school? Have you wondered as parents how you can work with your children to help them reach their potential in Mathematics? Have you asked yourself what more can be done?
For 20 years as part of MOE Singapore’s primary school scene as a Teacher, Head of Department and then as a Vice-Principal, I have seen so many children struggle with Mathematics. The point of fact is that in most primary schools, Mathematics is the lowest scored subject at any level. The subject builds on your children’s understanding from Primary 1 right up to Primary 6 (Spiral Approach) when they attempt their Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE). There are many reasons for children to underperform in Mathematics by the time they reach Primary 6. Some common reasons are the lack of interest in the subject, the shortfall in understanding concepts built for six years, repeated failure in the subject which leads to a lack of confidence and the list goes on. We are not here to identify the reasons. We are here to give parents, like you, a systematic and structured approach to working with your children to achieve their best in Mathematics by the time they face the PSLE Math.
The 3 Key Zones to Master PSLE Math – Parents need to understand and operate in these 3 zones
The Home Zone – Parents as Partners in PSLE Math
We, as parents, will always want and provide the best for our children to ensure they have a good way of life. In the Home Zone, parents need to be active participants in your children’s Math life at home. Parents need to do the following:
- Spend at least 30 minutes daily with your child asking about their Math lessons in school
- What topics or concepts your child found easy and difficult to understand?
- Is your child enjoying the lessons?
- Does your child need help from you?
- Discover your child’s learning style. Every child prefers to learn in their way. The three key styles parents can look out for are Visual, Auditory, and Kinaesthetic. There are free online learning styles questionnaires that parents can get your child to complete, and these provide an idea of your child’s preferred learning style.
- Visual – preference for seen or observed things, including pictures, diagrams, and demonstrations: teach Math through drawing models and diagrams;
- Auditory – preference for the transfer of information through listening: to the spoken word, of self or others, of sounds and noises: teach Math through explaining verbally or getting your child to explain verbally;
- Kinaesthetic – preference for physical experience – touching, feeling, holding, doing, and practical hands-on experiences: teach Math through providing items for your child to experiment with to solve problems (e.g., Lego bricks)
- Use Math with your Child on a daily basis. You can help show your child that they use Math on a regular basis and how Math can be seen in the real world in many instances
- Your child’s computer and online games have points that show them how much more they need to score to move to the next level or hit the highest score
- Let them calculate how much you need on your next trip to the shopping mall, filling up petrol for the car, cooking or baking at home, or sorting their savings of coins
- Finding out the length and height of the wall, floor and table during housework to learn about area
The School Zone – Parents as Collaborators in PSLE Math
Children spend more time with their teachers and friends in school than anyone else in their life – at least 40 hours a week. Parents have to take the step to find out how your children are doing in school. You do not need to call your children’s teachers regularly (this is too often and can be considered unwarranted harassment) neither do you have to wait until the term or mid-year meetings (that is too long a time to wait).
- Communicate with your child’s teacher via email once every two weeks or a month. Ask your child’s teacher
- What topics and concepts your child is finding difficult to understand?
- How can you help your child at home to understand the topics and concepts?
- Are there any ideas or resources you can work with to help your child?
- Attend workshops or talks conducted by the school to
- Get tips in understanding Math and how to guide your child;
- Meet and discuss with experts in the subject like teachers, Head of Department, Math expert;
- Understand the school’s approach and philosophy towards Math – how much resources are placed into the teaching of Math, what are the methods used in school, do they do small group or large group teaching
The E-Zone – Parents as Enhancers to PSLE Math
This zone, we would label it as the Entertainment, Enrichment, and Engaging Zone. Parents play the role of looking and adventuring to fun alternatives to improve their children’s performance in PSLE Math.
- Make PSLE Math a fun game not a chore for your child
- Source for online games that teach Math – tap on your child’s inquisitive mind for games;
- Use existing card games (Go Fish) or board games (Monopoly) to promote Math.
- Promote Creative problem solving for your child
- Ask varying questions to make your child think differently and creatively: How many ways are there to travel to your school, how many ways can you make the total 10 in a pack of cards, what is a different way of arranging the furniture in the room;
- Purchase creative problem-solving games as gifts for your child: puzzles, origami, strategy books and games.
- Source for relevant and reliable Enrichment experiences for your child
- Remember to look for these additional experiences that cater to meet your child’s needs – learning style, lack of understanding of particular concepts and topics, teaching and learning group size and their philosophy and methods in engaging your child;
- Look for enrichment companies or learning centres that deliver Math teaching and learning – weekly lessons, holiday programmes tailored to meet needs, use of unique methods to engage children and their philosophy and approach to teaching Math;
- Parents need to supplement your child’s learning of Math with these enrichment experiences and should not make it as an add-on to your child’s learning experiences so as to maintain your child’s healthy and positive outlook towards PSLE Math.
The 3 key zones highlighted above are critical and are interconnected with the common element of Parents and Children working together for the children to reach an optimal level of learning of Mathematics. You can use the above as a checklist as you guide your children towards performing well at the PSLE Math this year. Go ahead and check the items off the list above to help your child solve the mysteries of PSLE Math and reach their potential in a very short time.
Former Vice Principal
20 Years’ Service in MOE Primary Schools