Are Non-School-Taught Mathematics Methods Acceptable At National Exams?

Parents who have sent their child for primary school mathematics tuition classes are always keen to find out about the methods taught by the center to their child. Particularly concerning to them is whether the techniques used are acceptable at school exams. If the answer is no, then this is naturally a big stumbling block as their primary objective in sending their child for math tuition classes is generally to attain better subject grades. Given the level of confusion that this topic generates despite the sales efforts of tuition centers, we aim to give an overview of the situation and to grant greater clarity to the topic.

For starters, school teachers do naturally discourage the use of non-school related heuristics or methods. This is done because they cannot be certain that these methods will deliver the right answers in the full range of variable questioning that school exams contain. But it should also be mentioned that schools do to a certain extent vary their teaching and solving methods for mathematics. This variation emerges as a result of individual experiences of teachers while being contained within a certain bandwidth by the syllabus. As such, it is not uncommon to find students from two different schools solving the same problem using varying methods.

The question then arises if the usage of alternative methods that have not been covered in the syllabus will result in the loss of method marks. The answer is a straightforward no; PSLE markers do not penalize or stifle students’ methods so long as they follow a logical path to the answer. Of course, in order for the method to be deemed logical, markers must be able to understand each step’s rationale. Thus, it is highly encouraged that if students use alternative methods, that they put in the effort explain their thought process.

An argument could be made that given the unpredictability and complexity of Singapore math exams, that having alternative methods on standby to be used would be a big asset to students. Additionally, learning additional methods for a topic helps to broaden the understanding of the student and allows him or her to see the bigger picture. This goes beyond simple application and understanding, instead trending towards the mastery of the particular topic. However, it should be notedthat certain questions may specifically request students to use a method covered in school syllabus. As such, students must not neglect school related heuristics even if they feel more comfortable using alternative methods to solve questions.

If you are interested in helping your child to pick up alternative mathematics problem solving methods, then consider enrolling him or her for primary school mathstuition today.

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