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.

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