small group maths tuition

Is My Child Allowed to Use Other Non-School Methods to solve Math Problems?

One of the very common concerns that most parents have is whether their children can use methods not taught in schools to solve their word problems. The common feedback that I have received from students and parents as a Math Tutor is that school teachers will prefer their students to keep to Model Drawing and other types of heuristics they have learnt in schools. Other methods which students have learnt outside of schools are discouraged by some school teachers while others are open to their students using non-school related methods to solve their problems. Thus the use of other non-school methods depends on the school teachers’ style of teaching and their preference.

Over the years of teaching in local primary schools and at tuition centres, the majority of my students struggle much in solving complex word problems which require the use of different types of heuristics to solve. They also have much difficulty in drawing out the Model as schools do not really make Model Drawing compulsory. Students also do not like to draw Model as they either do not know how to draw or they prefer their own style of solving which may be limited. As a result, students generally depend on their own ability to solve their problems with no heuristics in mind. This is a serious concern when the problems get harder and become more complex and they start losing marks at Primary 5 and 6 levels.

What the schools have taught their students with regards to the methods may also differ. No doubt, all schools have to follow MOE syllabus and guidelines. However, when it comes to actual teaching in the classroom, Math teachers may adopt different approaches according to their experience and preference. For example, some teachers may know how to use the Assumption Method to solve certain problems while others may not be proficient to use this heuristics so they will prefer to use the Guess and Check method. Some teachers may teach their students how to use the Pairing or Rainbow Method to solve Pattern Types of problems while other teachers may adopt the Listing Approach which can be time consuming. Some Math teachers may rely on number patterns to solve Pattern or Figure Types of problems while others may train their students to learn to observe the Figures or Pictures to find a pictorial pattern. Some Math teachers may also know how to use the Before and After Table to solve Before and After types of problems while others will prefer to just use Model Drawing. What is taught in some classes in some schools may not be the same as what is taught in other classes even in the same school. It all depends on the individual class math teacher’s skills and proficiency in solving problems. As a result, some students would learn more approaches to solving problems while others would find themselves restricted to just a few methods of solving. Tuition Centres may also vary in how their tutors teach their students based on their own style and experience.

In order to perform well in school exams and assessments, my advice is to adopt an open mind to learn more methods of solving which may or may not be taught in schools. There are always more than one way to solve any particular problem. If you are unsure of how to use a particular method, there is always another alternative method to use. If your child is unable to draw out the Model for Before and After types of problems, they can switch to using the Before and After Table. This is especially useful if your child dreads to draw the Model. If your child forgets how to use the Assumption Method, they can switch back to Guess and Check. Will your child get confused by all these methods? The answer is YES especially if your child is not open to learn new things and is fixated on just those few methods they have learnt. You need to encourage your child to keep an open mind to learn new methods of solving and select the ones which are the most appropriate during the actual solving.

However, what happens if your child’s school math teacher insists on his or her preferred way of solving? My advice is to follow what your child’s math teacher is doing in school and at the same time, be open and flexible to apply new methods on other math word problems that are not school related. In this way, there is a higher chance that your child would perform better as they would have an arsenal of Heuristics to choose from when solving any type of problem. Will my child get penalised for using non-school related methods during PSLE marking? The answer is NO. Having been a PSLE marker for many years, we do not penalize students and stifle their creativity by using other methods to solve problems. As long as their steps are logical and markers are able to understand the rationale behind each step, we will always award them the allocated marks. School math teachers should also not penalise their students if they are using other non-school related methods to solve unless they have specifically told their students that they would be tested on the methods which they have learnt in schools.

In conclusion, how can my child perform better in Math? Encourage your child to pick up more new methods of solving and not be confined to only school related methods. What is not taught in your child’s school may be taught in other schools depending on your child’s school math teacher’s skills and proficiency in solving problems. This is also one of the main reasons why Math Tuition is Essential as we will plug the gap to help equip your child with more problem solving skills so that they would become more competent and confident in solving word problems. If you have any enquires on the types of Heuristics skills we are teaching in our small group maths tuition classes, feel free to drop us a call and we will be glad to answer your queries!