Fun with mathematics: Question 2

Test your children’s problem-solving skills – and your own – with this new weekly series of maths questions.

The questions are targeted at students in upper primary, and the worked solutions have been given by Assistant Professor Dr Lee Ngan Hoe, Assistant Head (Mathematics Education – Teaching) of the Mathematics & Mathematics Education Academic Group from the National Institute of Education (NIE) at Nanyang Technological University (NTU).

Advice for students

1. Try to understand the question first. What is the problem about? What information has been given? What does it mean? What are you supposed to find?

What does it mean to say that “the lowest score was 17 marks lower than his highest score”? What is meant by “the lowest score was no less than 75”?

2. Work out a plan to solve the problem. What could you try to do?

How could you represent the information? Are there relationships among the pieces of information contained in the problem?

There is a multiple choice question. There are four options for me to choose from. Could I make use of these options to help me solve the problem? Do I need to consider all options?

3. Try to make sense of the answer. How comfortable are you with your answer? Is there a way to check it? What have you learnt from solving this problem?

Overall advice

Be systematic when solving an unfamiliar problem. Do not focus too much on whether you can get the answer.

Try to understand the problem and draw on your mathematics knowledge to make sense of it. It is helpful to represent a problem in diagrams to look for relationships.

Avoid being too quick to accept an answer to a problem. Try to see if the answer makes sense and find a way to check your answer.

Advice for parents

1. Be a partner along this problem-solving journey. For some children, solving such unfamiliar problems may be a rather challenging experience and it is reassuring to have a loved one on the journey. Do not be too anxious to lead as that may block the child's view. Encourage the child and give him or her a helpful tug along the way.


2. Discourage the child from making pre-emptive judgements on whether he or she can solve the problem. Encourage him or her to make sense of the problem instead. Ask the child questions about the context of the problem to help him or her understand it. Act out how you would attempt to solve the problem. Sometimes your experience is the best teacher for the child.

3. Help the child activate the necessary maths knowledge and skills to solve the problem. Encourage the child to look for familiar words in the problem context which might trigger the necessary skills. It would also serve the child well to continuously revisit his or her mathematical knowledge and skills Maths skills needed for this problem include decimals and place values, multiplying numbers with decimals by 10, and dividing numbers with decimals by a single-digit number.

4. Children may be hasty in accepting an answer, especially if the journey has been challenging. Encourage children to check the steps in their work and also to make sense of their final answer.

5. As this is a multiple choice question, and there are unusually many unknowns in the problem, you might want to encourage the child consider the values in each option to check for possibility of the values given in each option. 

Furthermore, as there are 4 options, the child may also not need to check all four options, as the correct answer may also be obtained through elimination.

Brought to you by Marshall Cavendish Education