Voices Of Youth

Tough question links maths with real life

The Primary School Leaving Examination question about the estimated mass of eight $1 Singapore coins generated a lot of interest and discussion ("An informed estimate is worth its weight in coins"; Oct 9). The options given were: 6g, 60g, 600g and 6kg.

Some people feel that this is an IQ question and not a mathematical question, and is unfair to PSLE candidates.

However, many pupils have probably been exposed to such estimation questions already. In fact, I encountered many such questions over my six years in primary school.

When I answered this question in the PSLE recently, I thought: 600g is slightly more than half a kilogram. A smaller sack of rice is usually 1kg. Is it possible that eight $1 coins are heavier than half a sack of rice?

Even if pupils do not know how heavy a sack of rice is, they would know that a bottle of water has a mass of about 600g to 700g. They can imagine the water poured out and eight coins placed in the bottle - would the mass be close to the original mass?

Based on these analogies, I believe the maths question was completely legitimate and fair. It just requires pupils to think a little out of the box, use a bit of common sense and apply a bit of their mathematical knowledge.

I hope our maths syllabus will increase our exposure to such questions, because, by doing so, we can see the connection of maths and reality, and truly understand the relevance of maths in our daily lives.

Lauren Yeo Jen-Yin, 12, Primary 6 pupil

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 04, 2015, with the headline 'VoicesOfYouth'. Print Edition | Subscribe