Monday, 14 May 2018

Breakthrough Mathematics

Many parents, whose children have been failing Mathematics for over a year, worry and fear that their children can never master Mathematics. This fear is not unfounded because the mastery of Mathematics at a higher level is dependent on the mastery of Mathematics at a lower level. Perhaps it is only a matter of time before negative assumptions concretise and became a part of their belief system. Check yourself if you believe in any of the following assumptions:

*Mathematics is tough.
*My child/student is not cut out for Math.
*My family/student’s family has never been good at Math, so I expect my child/student to be weak at Math.
*Only intelligent people can master Mathematics.
*Weak students cannot never master Math ever.
*Weak students can only be helped 1-to-1, even then after a very long time.
*Only some weak students can improve in their scores.
*My child/student has never been good at Math. Hence, he/she will most likely fail his exam this year. 
*Some kids are born to master Math while some are not.
*It is impossible for drastic improvement to be achieved in 3 months (eg. F to A).

Do you believe in any of the assumptions above? If you do, no matter how logical you think you are, you are probably a part of the problem. In fact, if you are a teacher/tutor and you believe in any of the above assumptions, you must in all honesty and sincerity rethink these assumptions or leave teaching/tutoring profession. Why? Because you are a direct cause for non-mastery by your students of the subjects you teach. No matter how you defend yourself thinking that your assumptions are both logical and true, the reality is that your student expectations are hindering the student achievement levels. You got to do justice – either destroy the glass ceiling or leave the profession.

What if you are a parent who believe in some of the assumptions? Well, this is what I am dealing with for years. If I am your child’s teacher, I will have him/her mentally compartmentalise you – “Your parents do not understand your situation, the journey of mastering mathematics, and that’s why they think you cannot master Mathematics.” So I compartmentalise such parents so as to attack the glass ceiling. This weakens the glass ceiling and with time, as the child improves and excels, the glass ceiling disappears, as if it had never existed.

In education jargon, you can say that Breakthrough Mathematics is a teaching-learning approach that shares many similarities with Mastery Learning, a model of learning discussed by John Caroll and Benjamin Bloom in the 1960s. When I stumbled upon Breakthrough Mathematics, through trial and error, I did not know about Mastery Learning. It is only in the last 5 years that I realise that my approach of teaching Mathematics, which has caused failures to breakthrough and master Math (ie. Breakthrough Mathematics), is based on 2 models of teaching/learning, and they are Mastery Learning and the Self Concept approach. While Mastery Learning can be relatively easy to be researched and understood, it is the Self Concept approach which contains many “mysteries”. To explain it fully, I need to write a full book and so here I do it in pieces. Do look out for Breakthrough Mathematics articles such as this. 

Anyway, if your child is facing problems with PSLE Math and you are really worried about what to do, read on below about the programmes I offer. Perhaps you may want him to try out some of these classes.

Saturday, 12 May 2018

PSLE English Is Tough

If your child is facing difficulty in PSLE English, he is not alone. Singapore’s PSLE English is tough by international standards. Compare the Primary 6 examination paper from the Cambridge International Primary Programme (CIPP) to the PSLE English paper, and you will know why. In fact, try doing PSLE English Paper 2, without referring to the answer key, you will realise that it is by no means an easy paper. Try answering the question below.

Neither Jane nor her friends _______ (is/are) coming.

Which word should fill the blank – “is” or “are”? Many adults, who have diplomas and degrees, are not sure about the answer. Are you 100% sure?

The PSLE English papers of the 1970s,1980s and 1990s were not this tough. Had the examination then been this tough, many Singaporean students then would have failed the paper. Do you realise that even though English is the main language used at home for many students, they still face difficulty in English. Why is this so? One reason is because the words spoken in a Singaporean home is not adequate enough to prepare a child for PSLE English. Really? Yes, really. They may be enough to prepare students for the CIPP but not the PSLE. 

Do you know the meanings and spelling of the words below? Did you know them when you were 12? Are these words commonly spoken at home?

synagogue  stevedore        defecate      silhouette    entice    lure   squeal  

Do you think most Singaporean adults know their meanings and spelling? If they do not, can you blame your child for not knowing a significant number of words in the PSLE English paper?

To make matters worse, finding a good teacher/tutor who can teach PSLE English well is a challenge. For English, it is difficult to find tutors and tuition centres that can produce results. Why is this so? Firstly, there are many components to be mastered in English and secondly, some components are quite complex for 12 year olds to master. One example is reading comprehension. 

Fortunately, for over a decade, the series entitled The Ultimate Guide To Mastering Comprehension (by Shaheed Salim) has helped teachers and students with teaching and mastering this component. If your child finds PSLE English tough, then perhaps his classes by might help.