Forum: Dad's tutoring and drills helped a lot with PSLE maths

I wish to express my views about two Forum letters: "Revamp maths textbook, improve syllabus" by Mr Yap Chee Wee (Feb 10), and "Teaching kids concepts is different from getting them to ace exams" by Mr Foong Swee Fong (Feb 15).

These letters were written from the perspective of a parent and an educator, respectively. I thought it would be of some interest to see this same issue from the eyes of a pupil who recently sat the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE).

In primary school, I was taught to use heuristics in maths. Heuristics are strategies that students can use to solve complex word problems, involving mainly the use of models. I agree with Mr Yap that the textbook was far from adequate in preparing me for the PSLE.

But I was lucky. My father, a teacher, helped. We spent many hours on drills and agree that the drills saved me. If I had depended only on my school teachers, I am absolutely certain my PSLE result would have been starkly different.

However, when I entered secondary school, I found, to my dismay, that heuristics was taboo. The very tool that my primary school teachers swore by was almost immediately replaced by algebra, and we were told not to use models to solve maths problems.

Why were primary school pupils forced to perfect a skill that was not used for more difficult problems in secondary school?

I hope my first-hand experience as a 12-year-old pupil provides another perspective. I dare not imagine how things would be now if I did not have my father to help me in my PSLE journey.

Kayshya Lingesh

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