Singapore Primary Math Explained sc-math

More Math Practise = Better Math Grades?

Updated: 10 February, 2007

To improve their child's grade in math, some parents pile their child with additional math practises through assessment books and worksheets . Sadly, many do not see much improvement in their child's math. They fail to realise that what and how a child practises is just as, if not more, important than the amount of math practise. It is only through correct practise that children can improve their math.

What is the child practising?

Is the child doing his math correctly while practising? Ideally, errors should be spotted and corrected as early as possible. In reality, errors are often spotted after the child completes his math homework when his teacher marks them. By then the child would have "practised" the error for a few days and may have, to a little extent, entrenched the error into his brain. The child will then need even more practise to re-learn the correct process.

Is the child practising the right skill? The child who does not apply what the teacher was teaching in his math homework is not practising the right skill. The child may be using 'guess and check' to solve a math problem when his teacher is trying to teach him to use diagrams/models. Some parents will also try to teach their child algebra believing it to be a better method. The child is then not achieving the learning outcome required by the teacher.

Is the standard of practise beyond the child? The standard of practise should ideally correspond with the child's ability. A child who has yet to grasp the basics will be frustrated when asked to solve challenging problems.

How does your child do his math practise?

We need to actively foster good habits and attitudes in our children when they are doing their homework. Otherwise, they may acquire negative habits instead. This is especially true if children rushes through their homework without much thought. It takes time and effort to develop good habits and attitudes. Some of the habits and attitudes we should try to foster in our children are:

  • Neatness: Writing legibly and doing workings at one side of the pager instead of all over the page.
  • Systematic working: Presenting work in a logical order. For example, listing the factors of a number in increasing order instead of randomly.
  • Carefulness: Continual checking of workings as the math problem is solved and when the homework practise is completed. Proper labeling of workings/calculations to aid checking.
  • Being focused: Paying full attention to solving the math problem and completing the homework and not being easily distracted.
  • Independence: Searching books and notes for the required information first before turning to others for help.
  • Active thinking: Not giving up easily but thinking through a problem thoroughly before asking for help. Willing to think creatively and abstractly.
  • Self-discipline: Taking responsibility and managing time to properly complete homework and assignments on time without close supervision.

Parents need to be involved.

With several classes of 30 to 40 students under their care, it is difficult for school teachers to closely monitor the work of each and every student. Parents can support their children by monitoring their work at home and guiding them when necessary. I am not advocating that parents sit beside their children to closely watch and direct them doing their homework (as it negates the nurturing of independence and self-discipline). Rather parents can routinely scan through their child's work and suggest improvements and/or indicate the presence of errors (encourage the child to locate and correct the errors himself).

It is important that parents impose on their young children to develop good habits and attitudes. Homework is more than just about practising math to get good grades. A child will spend a substantial amount of his time doing homework. Properly managed, it is an opportunity to develop the child's character and study skills. As with charity, education begins at home. The child's attitude, more than his aptitude, determines how well he performs in school and in life.

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