TLL's Academic Director Shares Her Top 3 Ways To Excel In Primary Math

Posted by Shafina Jaafar on March 15, 2018

Phua Kaiying is the Academic Director of our TLL centres at Choa Chu Kang Centre, Jem and Westgate. With over five years of experience in teaching Math at TLL, she has helped more than 500 students improve their performance in Math. In this article, she shares 3 valuable tips in guiding your child to do better in this subject.

In my years of teaching Math, I've seen two common traits that eventually lead to students struggling to do better in Math, in both their PSLE exams and later on in their secondary school life.

1. The first set of students have the natural tendency to associate the subject with abstract (and confusing) numbers. Sometimes, I wonder if it is because we (parents and teachers) sometimes scare them off with algebra and complicated answers to their number-related questions.

2. The second set of students build up a fear of the subject over time, as they are given a greater volume of practices — full of numbers in tables, formulae to be memorised and heuristic methods to apply. Consequently, they have develop a subconscious distaste for numbers and this, in turn, inhibits their learning process.

As a Math teacher charged with helping students fall in love with Math, I often find that the easiest way to do so is to help young minds see how Math is all around us — how it is related to the decisions they make in their everyday lives.

My 3 Ways To Help your Child Love Math


1. Tackle Math With A Structured Approach

When in class, I have never told my students that learning Math is solely for the purpose of doing well in exams. I believe that academic success is a natural by-product of the key principles that we inculcate at The Learning Lab.

When solving Math problems, your child will need to: 

1.  Read the question carefully — the first step to getting the right answer is to understand what is being asked 
2.  Apply a critical thought process to analyse the requirements of the question
3.  Identify the fastest and/or easiest method to obtain the solution

What I realise is that most students miss out on steps (4) and (5). At The Learning Lab, we teach all of our students to:

4.  Check their work thoroughly and sign it off with an accountant’s pride
5.  Learn from their mistakes, and repeat steps 1 to 4

Often, our students struggle at step 5. They lose motivation and their intrinsic desire to learn how they have gone wrong and what can be done. This is where teachers come in — we need to identify when and how to encourage our kids.

And this leads me to my next point on the importance of helping your child develop a growth mindset. 

2. Learning Math With The Right Attitude

Imagine an examination hall filled with Primary 3 students: all the learners go in with the same level of trepidation  those who are strong in Math go in looking to eliminate any kind of error and hopefully get a full score, whereas those who are less adept in the subject approach the paper to see if there are questions from which they can score method marks. 

There is a critical problem with these learners' approaches  at a young age, they seem to have narrowly pigeon-holed themselves into two broad categories, “I can do Math”, or “I can’t do Math.”  What a shame!

I personally believe that students should never feel like they "can't do Math". Research has shown that students can get better at what may not be their strong suit — experiences, especially the positive ones, can change the neural connections in your child's mind. 

In our work as educators at TLL, we want to empower students and encourage our learners.

For instance, if your child obtains 2 out of 5 marks in the last two word problems of a Primary 6 Math mock paper, what his or her teacher says in response does plenty to encourage or discourage your child's motivations towards learning the subject. At TLL, we believe in motivating your child to understand why the errors were made and how to eliminate these errors (helpful) rather than focusing on the marks that were lost (not helpful).

In class, Math teachers also share with students how iconic figures have done well in life because they approach challenges with the right attitudes. For instance, I enjoy sharing with my students about how Joseph Schooling spent many years pursuing his Olympic dream, and how it is through his grit sheer tenacity that his dreams of being an Olympic gold medalist and swimming champion have become a reality.

Joseph Schooling's positive attitude is a story that never fails to inspire my students. In fact, it motivates them to strive harder.

3. See How Math Relates To Real Life

Math is everywhere and solving Math problems is much like solving problems in real life!

Even having a family meal at an eatery in the mall can be an opportunity to teach your child about the applications of Math in real life. 

Here's an interesting activity you might like to try out during your next family meal (local or overseas) to help your child see the application of percentages in our day-to-day life. Try posing your child these questions and coach him or her to come up with a systematic plan to solve the Math problem.

  1. If we were to calculate the bill from prices listed in the menu, which has not factored in a 10% service charge, or the 7% GST charge, how much would the total bill be?
  2. If Daddy's or Mummy's credit card entitles the family to a 6% cash rebate, how much will our family have to pay?
  3. If we are in a foreign city where there is a customary 15% tipping culture, how much money will our family have to pay? 

The possibilities for such Math activities are endless, and the fun involved in working out the solution helps to reduce the learner’s resistance to Math.

Related Article: 3 Effective Ways To Help Your Child Learn Lower Primary Math

When Parents And Teachers Partner Up, Your Child Stands To Gain

As parents and teachers, we have both the honour and a deep responsibility to help children enjoy what they learn — to cultivate a love for this seemingly abstract subject.

As a Math teacher, I gain the same heart-warming satisfaction watching my hesitant students drop their fear for the subject as I do helping the Math whiz chalk up his or her fifth perfect score for a mock paper within the year. There is plenty that we can do as parents and teachers to influence that special motivation in each child and help him or her to cultivate a love for Math.  

By motivating your child in the ways that work for him or her, my experience tells me that he or she will learn deeply from the miles of practice that he or she has put in. Your child will also gain a deeper understanding of Math concepts and heuristics  that is when he or she will start developing that love for the subject he or she may used to dislike.

Every step of the way, TLL is here to support your child.

Give Your child a meaningful learning journey today

Besides preparing our students for school exams, our Math programmes also aim to inculcate a deep love for the subject. Join us today!

Learn More About Our Math Programmes

If you have any enquiries about our Math programmes, please email us at enquiry@thelearninglab.com.sg or call us at 6733 8711 and we will be happy to assist you.