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How can a primary school student learn algebra better?

It is not surprising that in Singapore, the educational system for mathematics prioritises in helping students to build a strong foundation as early as primary school. Constant practices are emphasized to understand the syllabus better, in order for them to master the subject and use it to their advantage in higher studies and for career purposes.

Singapore's approach to mathematics has drawn a lot of praises from countries overseas. The concept is to understand fundamentals in primary educations. Examples include timetables, addition, subtraction and model illustration. Local teachers found that illustrative learning boost student’s motivation and willingness to engage in lessons. This brings me to another more important point.

Students when they further studies to secondary education, often the first problem they deal with is calculus. It can be very daunting, when there are numerals and alphabets all mixed into an expression. In most schools, students are expected to understand the concepts fairly quickly, and use those methods to solve equations and problems.

When students encounter questions like the following:

Mr Tan is 30 years older than his daughter. In 10 years time, his daughter will be 1/3 his age. His daughter is x years old now. What is x?

Most students when first encountering such calculus questions would be baffled. The added pressure is when they have to complete it with minimal calculus understanding, it can be very difficult.  However, such questions can be tackled with the model approach. The solution is as follow:

If the daughter is 1/3 his age, which means 2/3 would equal 30. So the daughter would be 15-10 = 5 years old now


Evidently, both model and calculus can derive similar answers. Using the method of calculus, it may be complicated for students to form an algebraic equation out of the blue to solve for similar answers (the following below):

(x+10) = 1/3(x+10+30)

x = 5

However, when the students are able to picture a solution using what they have learned in primary schools, the rectangular blocks suddenly brings about a whole new spectrum of significance in their education. Calculus may be able to help you summarise an overview of a question, but the model helps you to identify specific details. It is when a student learning how to construct pictorial representations that they can use what they have learned in primary schools to construct and solve algebraic problems in the future.

Take this opportunity to allow your child to express themselves in mathematics. Get a good math tutor with Bright-Maths to solidify this foundation. It is important that a student learns and remembers well about the topics covered in primary school. It can be a building block to achieve so much more in the future.

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