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Primary Maths: “What are the key topics for exams?” and other FAQs

Revising for a maths exam is essentially about getting as much practice as possible. But what should one focus on, and how much is enough practice? We put these and more questions to Pan Shiying, a maths coach at the Advo Education Centre. Read on for her tips on mastering maths in primary school.

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What’s the biggest challenge that our primary schoolkids face, when it comes to maths?

Lower primary maths is generally straightforward. In upper primary, students will encounter problem sums that require not just logical thinking, but being able to string together concepts learned into problem solving.

What’s a good last-minute exam preparation strategy?

Students should know what the key topics are for their level, and get as much practice as possible for these topics.

What are the key topics for each level?

Key topics are usually the ones that have a greater mark weightage in tests and exams, such as speed, angles, area and perimeter, and percentages for Primary 6. Fractions, decimals, and percentages are generally the key topics for the other levels. 

After completing a few practice papers, what should students do?

If students have done sufficient practice papers, instead of working on new questions—and getting themselves into panic mode days before the exams­—they can pause and simply revisit the questions that they have attempted before. Redoing questions will serve to refresh students’ memories, so that they can avoid making the same mistakes during the exams.

How about just reading the answer key if one is short on time? Is that helpful?

This may not be effective. Students often have the misconception that they are able to tackle a question because they have read and understood the answer key. If your child is doing this, ask him or her: If I cover the answer, will you be able to solve this question? Chances are, your child’s response will be a sheepish smile and a blank sheet of paper. The best way to master maths is to do the questions, in order to understand the flow of thought and methods, as well as learn through mistakes.

What’s one important thing to remember for maths exams?

Check the mark allocation and apportion your time accordingly. For example, a five-mark question should not take longer than five minutes to complete. Don’t dwell on challenging questions for too long, because that prevents you from moving on to other questions that you can score better on.

Is there any way to make revising maths fun?

Parents can work with their children to conduct experiments, as well as think of real-life scenarios to make maths more accessible. For example, for volume, pouring water from one container to another, or putting pebbles into a bowl of water, will allow a child to visualise and understand the concepts better. For speed, parents can give an example of two children who run at different speeds, and ask who will take a longer or shorter time to complete a given course.

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