Unsolving the Maths mystery with new method

IT is easy to figure out that one plus one is two and that two times of four is eight. But how does one teach these concepts to children, especially if they are of preschool age?

The Singapore method of teaching Mathematics utilises concrete objects, such as blocks or paper cut-outs, to help children understand the complex concepts behind Mathematics. As these children progress to their primary school years, the concrete objects transition into visual diagrams.

By the time they are in their secondary and tertiary schooling years, these students will understand the concepts so well that even with all its abstractness, Mathematics is no longer an incomprehensible mystery.

Hallmark Approach managing director Gan Choon Keong, a former actuary, says that the teaching of concepts was something that he found lacking in the Malaysian methods for teaching the subject.

He realised this only after his son, who at the time had completed Form Three, sat for the Asean scholarship examinations.

“He couldn’t do the questions,” says Gan, explaining that the questions had been of the problem-solving variety.

Gan began to do his research on “Singapore Maths” and eventually started a Math centre of his own. It is not a different syllabus, rather Singapore Maths is a method; it is a pedagogy.

“While practice is necessary for Maths, the initial learning is conceptual,” he adds.

Parents who send their children to learn Maths using this method have seen marked improvements not only in their children’s Maths abilities but also in other areas.

“It is not only just little improvements that I see,” says parent Goh Jooi Hong, whose daughter is currently in Year Five in a Chinese vernacular school.

“I see so much more flexibility in her applications,” she adds, explaining that her daughter has a keen interest in Maths and has been winning her school’s annual Maths competitions.

“The (Singapore) method is not just memorising equations. Every topic starts off by getting the child to understand the concept. If the concept is shown to them, they know how to apply it in other situations,” she adds.

Although his children are in an international school, Lee Chiew Peng still wants his sons to pick up the Singapore method of learning Maths.

“It makes a child think of different ways of solving a problem,” he said.

“And you do your own work during classes. The child becomes more independent,” he said, adding that his son had improved a lot in terms of comprehension as well because students had to understand the questions asked before they could figure out a solution.

“His English has also improved compared to before,” he said.

Lee said the centre’s teachers did not let children move up to the next level if they did not meet the necessary requirements.

Keeping a child back is a good thing as it enables a child to work on his or her weaknesses before they move on to the next level. “One needs to have a strong foundation,” he said.