Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Bridging the Mathematics learning gap

The learning of Mathematics is so different from 20 years ago, that the MOE Mathematics curriculum now focuses on problem solving as its primary goal. In 2009, when the use of calculators were permitted during the PSLE Mathematics Paper Two, it became obvious that the learning of Mathematics does not just focus on computation skills any more.

Importance of Heuristics in Mathematics

Today, students no longer learn Mathematics by memorizing, rote-learning or drilling. How well the child learns Mathematics does not relate to “practice makes perfect”.

Instead, they must be able to connect, reason, model what they have learned in class and apply Heuristics to solve problems.

The teaching of Mathematics has shifted from white board learning to inquiry-based learning, whereby students discover facts, concepts and relationships by themselves.

Other than Problem Solving Skills, the following are also important thinking skills that the students must adopt:

    Observation
    Visualization
    Hand-eye co-ordination
    Analytical thinking
    Logical Reasoning
    Judgment
    Categorization
    Memory

The following is an illustration of how children can be trained with multiple thinking skills: 
Q: Which picture is correct?


Thinking skills and processes involved in solving this problem:
a)    Correspondence skill
1.    What is the mass of a Monkey?               7 units
2.    What is the mass of a Chicken?              5 units

b)    Addition skill   
1.    What is the mass of a Monkey and a Chicken?    7 units + 5 units = 12 units
2. What is the mass of 2 Chickens?            5 units + 5 units = 10 units                                                                  
c) Judgment skill
1.    Is a Monkey and a Chicken heavier than 2 Chickens?
 If yes, then the answer is a tick.            Ans: 

Where is the learning gap in problem solving?
Students may understand certain concepts that have been taught, yet may still be
unable to do well in problem solving. In order to bridge this gap, students must apply
the following strategies when solving word problems:

Step 1 Understand the problem
    Students must comprehend the text and understand what is the question asking and what is required to solve the problem.

Step 2. Devise a plan
    Students must be able to identify the correct strategies to use in solving the problem. There are many problem solving Heuristics, and the Model method serves as a good tool to allow students to visualize a solution when solving the problem.

Step 3 Model and carry out the plan
    Students will draw a model, list a table or apply the correct heuristics to solve the problem.

Step 4 Reflection
    Students must reflect by substituting the answer into the problem to meet the conditions stated in the problem.

Quote: From a Facebook posting by Education Minister Mr. Heng: “a question requires a pupil to work through a few steps to get the final answer. And even if he doesn’t get the final answer, if he gets the first few parts right, he understands his materials and gets points for it.” Unquote.

Therefore, the focus is no longer about just getting the right answers but on the process of how the students derive at the correct answers.
This article is contributed by Edison Innovative Pte. Ltd., the Master Franchisor for eiMaths. We are a Singapore-based Mathematics program focused on creative thinking and problem solving skills to identify and bridge your child’s learning gap in Mathematics. Visit us at

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