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.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Obsession with calculators

Since the introduction of the use of calculators at P5 this year, I find that many students (and some parents) are only too eager to know how that impacts exam papers. As of Mar 2008, I have not really noticed any significant difference in exam papers – at least not enough to cause any student or parent concern.

I feel that the “over-concern” on how calculators will affect exam papers and eventually the PSLE 2009 next year, detracts students from the real objective – ie the need to do well for the PSLE 2009 Math Paper next year. With or without calculators, students are expected to be able to solve PSLE Maths questions with respect to Fractions, Decimals etc. As such, a preoccupation with calculators or how exam papers will be set because of calculators, in my opinion, is a needless distraction.

I have noticed that some students have the idea that since calculators are allowed, mental multiplication tables are now redundant. That is a fatal mistake. Without mental multiplication tables, students will be slowed down in deciphering lowest common multiples – a crucial skill needed in solving addition and subtraction of fractions.

It must also be remembered some schools allow calculators only in some sections. That also looks to be the likely format for the PSLE Maths 2009 Paper. If a student is too dependent on calculators, he may be slowed down in the sections where calculators are not allowed.

The correct attitude towards calculators should be that it is introduced at P5 so that when the student uses calculators in secondary school, he would be familiar with all the functions that comes with calculators. The attitude should never be that the calculator is introduced so as to lighten the burden of calculation for PSLE Maths.

As for whether Maths questions will be set differently because of the introduction of calculators, I feel that is a non-issue.

If there is no difference on how PSLE Maths Paper is set, the worry and concern on the part of students and parents is unproductive.

If there is a difference on how the PSLE Maths Paper is set, a strong foundation in Maths and a strong foundation in mental multiplication tables, would render any difference negligible.

The only ones who need to worry are those who have not built their Maths foundation topics (like Fractions, Decimals, conversion of units etc) and their mental multiplication tables.

My advice is to drop the unnecessary concern (ie how the introduction of calculators will affect Maths exam papers) and concentrate on the real goal – ie to do well for the Maths Exam Paper itself.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mr Song
Thank You for your advice.
Current PSLE questions may be restricted due to tedious manual calculations.Those who are weaker may be able to rely on Guess and check to solve some of the problems.The use of calculators may shift the focus to problems with higher order thinking skills.One major concern amongst parents is whether Pri Maths will be increasingly difficult.But of course, the change will be less painful if students strengthen their problem solving skills.