How we learn Mathematics

There is really no cheat sheet in learning Mathematics. And how I wish there is one. Mathematics was one of my worst subject in Primary School. Eventually, when I reached Secondary School, somehow I finally could grasp the Math concept and began to score high, and that’s how I start to love it and Mathematics became my strongest and favourite subject. I shared this experience with Missy 12 and told her:

“If you hate a subject, all the more you should make it the subject that you will LOVE! Go and conquer the challenges, love it and you will do well!”

I am not sure if it sounded abstract, but I realised that it was really like that for me. Once I grow to like it, I do well, it is as simple as that.

“If you hate Chinese, then conquer the 汉字, and you will grow to love it!” I told to Master 10 too as remembering the strokes of 汉字 is his biggest enemy at this moment.

How do we Learn Mathematics at home?

1) Identify the weaker topics that you child is facing

The moment I realised Missy 12 failed her Math in P3, it was a wake up call. I bought the P3 Math assessment books after her SA2 for that year and went through all the topics in the books for the December school holidays. There was work and play, I always ensured that. Since I realised her weakness in the subject so late, which went unnoticed, I felt that I should help her to re-learn all the basics. Hence, if you don’t already realise the weaker topics that you child is facing, perhaps, it is good to try to find out as early as possible to nip it in the bud before the challenges snowball to a big magnitude.

2) Flip through the school worksheets and focus on mistakes

This method works for almost all subjects. Make sure the mistakes previously made are understood, especially that topic in entirety, not only limited to one question, then re-do these questions to ensure the child gets them right.

3) All information / numbers given in the Math Question are to be used

Many times, I find that my children may leave out a number given in the question, and leave it unused in their working. There is one important thing to remember: the question will not give extra information, all information  and numbers appearing in the question MUST be utilised.

4) Infer!

How do you infer in Math? Well, lots! For instance, if the question says, “After the 10th day, there is 1/4 sugar left. By end of 12th day, the sugar left was 120g.” The child must be able to infer that 3/4 sugar was used for the past 10 days. The child must also know that from 11th day onwards, the usage and leftover totals up to 1/4 sugar. One more thing in this question to take note is that 1/4 sugar is not equivalent to 1/4 kg sugar. Hence, inferences are important in Math too!

5) Train Accuracy and Speed

In Math, there are many questions to work within the exam allocated time. There is a need to use the best and most efficient method to work out a problem. Instead of beating around the bush, one should aim to identify the fastest method to work on a problem sum. This saves time for other questions.

For example, There is a discount of 20% on a T-shirt (usual price is $100) during a sale. How much does the T-shirt cost?
Method 2 below has a step lesser than Method 1. Using Method 2 will save time.
Math qn 1

Besides using a more efficient method, the child should not stay at a question for too long and learn to time himself and move along to the next question. Skip a question when stuck. Train the child at home by setting time to finish a paper. Accuracy and Speed need to be trained!

6) Remember to write UNITS

Marks will be deducted for forgetting to write units. And remember to write the CORRECT Units! A quick tip: Before putting down the answer on the line, make a quick check for what the question is asking and in what units.

7) Reasonableness

Always have a quick check with the final answer and have the child ask himself/herself if the answer is REASONABLE or not. For instance, if the final discount in value is $200 while the T-shirt is $100, this is NOT reasonable and somewhere in the working, there must be a mistake. If the answer for a pen comes up to 1kg, the child should know that it is NOT reasonable too. We can help our children in understanding REASONABLENESS by bringing them to the supermarket, or involving them in cooking preparation, etc, to gauge the value in weight, length, volume. This will help them very much in Mathematics and everyday usage in calculation.

8) Relate Math concept in Everyday Life

I try to relate Math concept as and when the right situation arises. For instance, I teach them to use ESTIMATION when we calculate discounts and division of a total number of sweets among siblings. When baking, I ask them to measure 1/8 cup of flour in a measuring cup relating to FRACTIONS. When walking on the road, we identify ANGLES on road signs, advertisements, etc. We talk about PERIMETER when we walk one round in the neighbourhood. We identify CUBOIDS and CUBES around the house. There are so many things in our everyday life that is related to Math. Just look around consciously and we will find many things to talk to our children on Math.

Our Revision

I find that #30minrevision does not work so well on Mathematics revision for higher Primary, mainly because one question can take up to 15 minutes to solve and teach. However, it is still possible if we are targeting to finish 2-3 questions per 30 minutes revision block. But mostly, we use 2 hours on weekends to revise Mathematics so as not to break the momentum.

We use Visible Thinking by Marshall Cavendish Education for our materials to revise by topic. I like this book very much because the questions are usually in sets of 2 or 3 questions with same scenario but only one variable is changed. This helps to test the student on his/her understanding if the question tweaks slightly. Further, each topic will start with asking some thinking questions that I, sometimes, may answer wrongly too. It has a good representation of working steps at the start of the topic which aids me to teach my children easily. So, if you are clueless in Primary School Math, I would highly recommend this book to help you learn along with your child. We have been using this book since Missy 12 was Primary 3.

Visible Thinking

As I am very familiar with Missy 12’s weakness in certain Math topics, I am able to identify and zoom in on these topics during our revision. We will start with me explaining the Math concept for a topic using the Visible Thinking book and assigning the questions for her to do. I have learnt that I need to mark on the spot during the 2 hour revision instead of leaving till days later, this will help her to absorb better as her mind is still fresh from her thoughts while I explain to her the mistakes and where went wrong.

As the SA1 exams are nearing, I am tempted to give her the top school papers to do as we are running out of time. However, I decided to still focus to drill on the weaker topics and ensure she got the concepts right even though it means that we will do lesser papers and wasting some money. I believe slow and steady goes a long way and also the right way. Hence, focusing on weaker topics and ensuring the child gets them right should be the priority in any kind of learning.

Now that we are quite comfortable in all the tested topics, we have started to do top school papers. We draft out a revision calendar and jot down the days that the children will be late home from school on the calendar. Then we fill in the afternoons with assigned revision and exam papers to do. As I have to be realistic about what they can finish in an afternoon, along with their school homework, I assign Math Paper 1 on one day and Math Paper 2 on the other, sometimes coupling with less demanding subjects like English and Chinese on the same day. Everyday after dinner, I will pick a paper to go through the mistakes for our #30minrevision. Time is limited. Either we have English during this 30 min revision block or we have various subjects focusing on mistakes.

And I will never forget one thing. If I see improvement in grasping a concept, I will commend on Missy 12’s efforts and good attitude. I do hope she feels encouraged and gets more confident as we go along.

If you like this post and find it useful, do share with your friends who need tips for Math revision or preparing for PSLE like us. I want to selflessly teach everyone what I know and how I teach my children in academics. I do have a small ambition: To inspire more parents to go the NO-TUITION route like us! Let’s save money and save time for our children to play and unwind more! I think there is more to life than academic and tuition.

You may follow us in the NO TUITION PSLE SERIES by clicking on the link or follow us on instagram to see how we learn in our daily #30minrevision. And if you have a P5 kid, do hop over to DinoMama, a fellow mummy blogger who has started to document some good study tips from her daily revision with her son too.

Hope this post is useful to everyone out there who has a kid in school! Stay tune for the next post!