What Can Papua New Guinea Curriculum Developers Learn From Singapore’s Maths Mastery Lessons, A Teaching Style Aim At Preparing Students For Life

Singapore’s maths mastery concentrates on problem-solving


Researchers in the article (shown on the right) compared mathematics ‘teaching methods’ in the UK to Singaporean method. Their finding revealed that ‘students taught using problem solving strategy learn faster than their counterparts – ‘making an extra month of progress in a calendar year’.  That’s impressive.

Another point worth reiterating is that student’s ability to do well in maths can be enhanced by tweaking it at certain time. The report highlighted that ‘even a small enhancement at age 10 yields long term economic benefits for individual and the country’.

If PNG students were to do well in mathematics, maths teachers have to look at ways to create resources targeted at developing student’s problem-solving skills, ideally students between the ages of 9 and 16 years. 

Take a look at Singapore’s mastery class. A good example has been indicated – using three wooden bars to find three consecutive numbers that add up to 42. Papua New Guinean (and English, US, NZ and Australian) teachers would solve this by trial and error or by using algebra.

Method one: By trial and error - choose 3 numbers at random. Start at 10, 11, 13 (=34); 11, 12, 13, (=36); 12, 13, 14 (=39) and 13, 14, 15 (=42)

Three numbers are 13, 14 and 15

Method 2: By using algebra - let the first number be x, second number x + 1 and third number x + 2

            x + x + 1 + x + 2 = 42
             3x + 3 = 42
             3x       = 39
                       x       = 13

Three numbers are 13, 14 and 15

This is not about a complete shift in teaching styles. This is about enhancement – creating ‘power lesson’ effective enough to enrich students ability on a weekly or monthly basis.

The importance of helping students to learn faster and think for themselves is far superior to preparing students for examinations. There has to be a balance between building strong problem-solving skills and preparing students to achieve good grades. 

What Singaporean schools have done can also be done in Papua New Guinea. Giving students the best possible opportunity to improve their maths skills on a regular basis, and above all, prepare them for life.

Practical Mathematics: 4 Easy Skills To Aid Mental Calculations And Beat Non–calculator Exam Questions

Here are four mathematical skills you can use in any situation when shopping or dealing with everyday numbers. In fact, having these skills can make you a better maths student – also will help to add, subtract, multiply and divide accurately. 



1. Easy Adding



E.g. 


Skill: Separating numbers into parts, then add

If you can see parts like 20, 20 and 10 (add to 50) and the other 50 make an easy 100. 

Also, 7and 3 (=10) and 8 and 2 (=10) gives 20. By doing this you can get 120 (100 and 20) without having to use a calculator. 

2. Easy subtracting 


E.g. 

Skill: Ensure last digits end with the same number (353 and 33), then subtract in parts
The idea is that the same numbers result in zero, making calculation easier.  

3. Easy Multiplying 


E.g.


Skill: Separate on number (usually the smaller number) into parts, multiply each out, then add. 

3. Easy dividing 


E.g.

Skill: Identify a multiple of the divisor (24 is a multiple of 12 closest to 33), and simplify


Background

Many changes are happening in PNG's education system. Change in structure (in 2016) and change in the curriculum (2015, OBE to SBE) are two significant educational changes. The changes must be equally complimented by good learning content (syllabus).  

Methods above are examples of creating effective learning contents, especially when introducing mathematics in class. 

Traditional mathematics and practical mathematics are still grey areas in PNG mathematics syllabus. The examples I gave above are illustrations of practical mathematics – you can do a mental calculation using those skills when shopping or doing other everyday math. 

Traditional mathematics skills are those that you may require a pen and paper to work out the answers.  Our parents are very good at such working out. But, if we are to make a nation of quick thinkers, we’ve got to introduce practical mathematics for everyday use – not just to help in tests and exams. 

Take above as examples of how mathematics in the classroom can be streamlined to prepare students for life.