'Boiled and baked and often mashed, peeled and fried and sometimes hashed. In groups of ten you'll hear their cries, please don't turn us into fries,' the teacher reads to a class of pupils eager to find out what would happen to the potatoes eventually.
The 'Storybook Approach' is one of the initiatives that primary schools are adopting to inject fun in solving Mathematics-related word problems.
The 'Storybook Approach' is one initiative that primary schools are adopting to inject fun in handling Mathematics-related word problems. Pupils enjoy listening to stories, and at the same time, learn how to solve Maths related word problems in an engaging way. At Bendemeer Primary School for example, activity-based learning is a big part of the school's curriculum. Not only do they use story-telling to engage pupils from the lower primary level, teachers impart problem solving strategies through the Concrete-Pictorial-Abstract (CPA) approach to all pupils.
The CPA approach first impresses on pupils that Mathematical operations can be used to solve real-world problems. The use of visual representations using concrete manipulatives (pictorial representations, interlocking cubes, fraction discs, measuring tools, interactive white-boards, etc) makes learning a more hands-on learning experience. Teachers will then explain how the pictorial examples relate to concrete examples and apply them to abstract Mathematical concepts.
Lower primary pupils use concrete manipulatives to visually represent 4 groups of 9.
'Experiential learning, such as the CPA approach, is very critical in teaching and learning Mathematics. We observe that pupils, even the weaker ones, become more engaged, participative and develop a positive attitude towards the subject,' noted Mrs See Lai Kwan, Principal of Bendemeer Primary School.
Customised Approaches to Support Diverse Learning Needs
For lower-primary pupils who do not have the necessary foundation in numeracy skills when they enter primary school, they will be identified for the Learning Support for Mathematics Programme (LSM) . The LSM is an early intervention effort aimed at providing support to pupils who need extra help in learning the subject.
'Pupils who are weaker in Mathematics often need to visualise the concepts. The CPA approach is particularly helpful to these pupils as the structured teaching sequences are used to scaffold students' learning. Depending on their learning styles, we will also use songs, stories, colourful teaching resources and games (such as Snake & Ladders and card games) to help the weaker pupils apply Mathematical concepts in a hands-on manner,' explains Miss Jennie Hon, who heads the Mathematics Department in the school.
The infusion of various approaches engages pupils to construct meaning out of complicated Mathematical concepts and at the same time, make connections to real-life situations.
Developing a Positive Attitude towards Mathematics
Through the use of manipulatives and various fun activities (Maths Games Day, Maths Experiential Week and Maths Game Station, etc), pupils are encouraged to infuse Mathematics in their everyday lives and deal with the subject confidently. The continued emphasis on activities and problem solving in classrooms also encourages student participation, communication and reasoning in the subject.
One of the stations in the Maths Games Day, pupils infuse Physical Education with Mathematics and use manipulatives (learning aids) to learn about addition/subtraction.
Josiah Ang, a Primary Two pupil in the school, testifies to how activity-based learning has helped him learn better. 'I like using different items such as fraction cards and measuring tools to help me learn how to count. It makes Mathematics more fun and less boring.'
According to the results from the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Studies (TIMSS) 2011, Singapore emerged among the top few internationally and has shown improvements in the ability to reason among all our Primary Four and Secondary Two students who were surveyed. The study also showed that Singapore students liked learning Mathematics more than their international peers.
Singapore students were ranked among the top few internationally in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) 2011. The study shows that Primary 4 and Secondary 2 have improved in their reasoning ability and liked learning Mathematics more than their international peers.