As parents, I understand we want the best for our children. We can help by giving them full support and have realistic expectations from them. My 2 elder boys are average students and I don’t push them to be top scorers. Though they don’t take the university road, they are doing well in their own capacity. I’m very happy that they are well rounded and decent citizens with no vices.
My youngest boy however shows great potential and is among the top scorers for maths in school. He’s a genius in maths and represents his school in competitions but weak in Chinese. I have to add that I didn’t help him much in Maths and many have the misconception that I trained him. In fact, he’s better in Maths than me.
He was stunned by the angle and sweets questions but confident that he did well for the rest. He had 40mins left to think but somehow couldn’t break out of the box and solve them. Worse, on reflection (with some prompting from me), he realised that he could have solved them. He realised he had made a careless mistake and got the curry puff question wrong.
Of course I encouraged him to move on. The consolation was those top scorers in his school didn’t do better either cos everybody seems to be floored by the same questions. To him, the paper is difficult but he’s happy it’s not easy as he tends to make careless mistakes with easy questions and perform well in difficult tests compared to easy ones.
The reason I share this is because I hope that if your child is an average performer, he or she will not take it too hard and if he/she is a top scorer, there’s company. Moreover, being good in Maths plays only a small part in getting into top schools. One has to be good in all four subjects. If your child is good in Chinese, my son has no advantage over him/her cos overall they may have the same T-score, so take heart.
I am also a tutor and I also find that letting children use calculator is more of a detriment than help at primary level. Most of my students have become too lazy to calculate mentally and don’t even know their timetable. They are actually taking one step backwards cos they are so dependent on calculators instead of doing simple mental calculations. I ban calculators during tuition and allow them to use only for complicated sums. My advice to all parents when helping their children in Maths are:
Cultivate an interest in Maths first. Without passion, your child will never love and do well in the subject. Worse, they’ll hate it when they can’t solve the sums as they become disheartened.
Give encouragement and moral support by finding ways to help them e.g. find creative methods or looking at the sum at another angle.
Simplify the concepts taught to help them understand
Take one step at a time. Many parents insist that I teach their children how to solve difficult sums despite the fact that their children have yet to master the concept. Make sure that your child know the basics well and proceed from there. Give me a child who understands the concept thoroughly and I give you a child who can solve any maths questions.
Last but not least, practice and more practice as practice makes perfect. Most students forgot what they’ve learnt cos lack of practice. There’s no room for laziness. Some parents mistaken that if a tutor has reinforced what is taught in school, their children should do well. However, from my experience, pupils who do badly in Maths are those who don’t do their assignment cos they are too confident that they can remember how to do a particular sum just cos they did it before.
Regarding the Maths paper, I agree that it is difficult because there are too many complicated sums compared to previous years. Given the time constraint and exam pressure, I can understand that they won’t perform as well compared to normal circumstances.
However, children have been taught and drilled in all aspects and have the capability to solve them. They knew the requirements for every question, e.g. for the speed question, they have no doubt that it implied that the cyclists are cycling at a constant speed although we know that it is practically impossible to do so. I think the reason why parents find the sums difficult themselves is cos they are not exposed to such questions. My husband who boasts to be a top scorer in Maths in his school days can’t answer any of the questions and has totally given up .
So cheer up parents and children, all is not lost.