This blog is managed by Song Hock Chye, author of Improve Your Thinking Skills in Maths (P1-P3 series), which is published and distributed by EPH.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Is there a standard template to answer Sect C Maths?

Very frequently, parents and students ask me if students would be penalized if they did not follow a certain “template” type answer taught in schools.

As an example, here is a question posted to me.
Posted by Anonymous 28 Mar 2008 PM 01:28 :

Mr Song
Wish to seek your opinion on the use of equivalent ratio to solve
this problem. This method may be more suitable for weaker students , but it’s
Before After
5:3 5:4
25:15 30:24As there is an
increase of 5 boys and 9 girls
30-25 =5 boys
24-15 =9 girls
At first
there are 15 girls
Will students be penalised if they use this method.

The Maths Question that is referred to can found here:

Before I proceed to comment whether a student will be penalized, let me share with you my personal experience, when I was a teacher in school. I have taught China Nationals in schools and they worked out their sums very differently. Usually they score 100%. So, do I penalize them for using a different way of working their sums?

Mathematically, they are correct. The only difference is that most Singapore students use a step-by-step approach.

If the working is mathematically correct, I mark them correct. I don’t penalize them. After all, how can you wrong a working and the answer if it is right?

However, as much as I am tempted to tell students and parents that it is OK to use their own method, provided the working is mathematically correct, I would not say it publicly. The reason is that I do not want to undo what the teachers in schools have taught their students.

The “standard template” working taught in schools works brilliantly for the average and weaker students. Those who are strong in Maths will of course be able to see that the question can be approached in different ways.

If I were to give an opinion in a public blog, that it is OK to use a method other than the “standard template” working, I may be undoing all the hard work teachers in schools are doing to help the average and weaker students.

All I can say is that when I was teaching and marking exam papers in schools, I have never penalized students who gave me mathematically correct working that leads to a mathematically correct answer. However, I have stopped teaching in schools since 2002 and that of course, means that I have also stopped marking exam papers.

Since I will not be the one who will be marking exam papers, I may actually be the wrong person to ask if a student would be penalized, if he used a non-standard template working.

The best person to ask is still your own teacher.

I hope that answers the question posted by “Anonymous”.


Anonymous said...

It was a very good artical on PSLE T-Score. Have any one ever know what was the national statistics of average score and SD for the past years?

Anonymous said...

MOE will accept any method as long as it is logical. This is quoted by Director of Curriculum, Ms Ho Peng

**Intellectual** said...

If an answer is correct, the workings might be wrong.


Tress are planted 50 cm apart.The field is 2.5 m. How many trees are planted?

50 / 2.5 = 20

The answer is correct but the steps on to arrive to the correcr answer. I am a pupil myself and in my CA1, my teacher marked this wrong. As stated 0 marks, not even 1 answer mark. I do not agree on what you said.

Anonymous said...

It is better to use the methods used in singapore schools. If you are unsure if your answer is wrong, you can use your own method at the side in pencil to verify. Anyways, it is better to be safe than sorry...

Anonymous said...

I agree with the comment saying that using pencil at side to verify so thanks for ur suggestion. We never know a teacher might mark your own method wrong if he or she feels it is wrong.