Inspiring Interest in Primary Maths
Maths is a key foundational subject. As one of the three core subjects students are introduced to from the beginning of their Primary school journey, mathematical skills are essential for child in our education system.
Struggling with Maths?
However, not every student has a natural aptitude for primary Maths. Some may find it tedious or stressful, especially if they have difficulty grasping the concepts early on. Rote and rigorous methods of teaching Maths serve only to dull an appreciation for the subject, not to mention that the concepts taught are mostly theoretical – failing to provide real-life applications.
For those who are more linguistically inclined, the fact that Maths is such an important part of primary education may feel unfair. For example, every child has the opportunity to take a screening test to be offered a spot in the Gifted Education Programme (GEP). The test assesses a student’s proficiency in English, Maths and logical thinking, requiring them to score exceptionally well in all three areas to be accepted into the programme. Students who struggle with Maths but excel in languages will be screened out of the Gifted Programme. The requirement for strong mathematical skills only increases further up the education system.
Therefore, it is in every student’s best interests to secure a solid foundation of the topics in Primary Maths as early as possible. Fortunately, with the right guidance and practice, it is not difficult to score in examinations, no matter mainstream, GEP or the PSLE. There are ample resources available to aid a student’s study of Maths, including revision tools, textbooks, past-year papers and question banks, to name a few.
Most students in Primary school will be familiar with Math Olympiad, an annual local competition designed to challenge students with unconventional question types. Math Olympiad is typically on an opt-in basis, where interested students can apply for the training classes and then choose to attend the competition. Some schools may restrict the eligible applicants to only those in certain streams or those who are already doing well in Maths, leaving many without a chance to experience Math Olympiad questions at all.
Lately, teachers and parents have noted that the questions in Maths Olympiad have actually been making their way into upper primary Maths papers, especially the PSLE. In recent years, questions leaked from PSLE Maths papers have gone viral, where parents complained that the papers were becoming too difficult and that even a higher-level student would have difficulties answering the questions correctly.
Based on the way scoring works in the PSLE, it is normal to expect a number of exceptionally difficult questions designed to sieve out the crème de la crème. However, the concerns raised are that most students do not have the adequate exposure to give them even a chance to answer these questions in their mainstream papers.That is where external Maths enrichment comes into play. Even if it may be unfair to some students, it is no longer enough to simply rely on the topics taught in the classroom. To truly excel in upper primary and PSLE Maths, students must seek out Maths enrichment on their own accord.
What can be Done to Inspire Interest in Primary Maths?
The ideal scenario would be to inspire every child to have a thirst for knowledge and a desire to understand Maths in their everyday lives. Many parents and teachers may be thinking that this is easier said than done.
One great way to spark an interest in Maths is to introduce students to applications of Maths. This is especially easy with Primary Maths as the topics taught are relatively elementary and visible in our daily lives, such as money, fractions, speed and time. By helping students to establish the connection between Maths concepts and their real-life applications, they will find it easier to internalise the ideas and apply them with their own understanding.
Making learning fun can also be a useful method to get students interested in Maths. Instead of drilling them with practice questions all the time, try introducing some Maths puzzles or games that make use of the concepts they are learning. Additionally, strategic or logical puzzles can also make for great learning tools. Not all games have to be directly related to the topics taught in Maths, as even developing basic problem-solving skills will go a long way in boosting a child’s attitude towards Maths and logical thinking.
Additionally, students should be introduced to as many different methods as possible when it comes to solving a problem. If they are forced to complete a problem in just one specific way, this greatly limits their perspective and harms their ability to think out of the box when they face future problems. However, when students are shown multiple methods of arriving at the same conclusion, they will be better able to understand that there is always more than one way to solve a problem, which is an especially crucial concept in their later education.