There's a simple explanation for this: maths was Lesley-Anne's stumbling block and I had to be actively involved to guide her through the subject so that she would be sufficiently prepared for PSLE. Now that the PSLE is over, I'm off the hook!
This is not to imply that Lesley-Anne has magically grown some mathematical DNA overnight. It's just that the transfer from primary to secondary school seems to have sparked a switch in my brain - primary school: Mummy On, secondary school: Mummy Off. I don't know what it is but I feel like at secondary school, the child should be mature enough to learn on her own and make sure she meets her deadlines. Mummy's role is now purely functional, ie see that she gets three square meals a day (well, one is in school so that's two) and that she gets enough sleep.
This mental switch is quite strange - it impacts me not just intellectually but affectively. I mean, Lesley-Anne came home with a 6/10 for her maths quiz and I was quite unperturbed, in fact nonchalant. My response was, "Do you know where you went wrong? You gao tim (handle) yourself, ok?" In other words, her not getting great results doesn't even stress me out anymore. Somewhere in the illogical region of my brain (maybe the part that controls food), I assume that she'll find a way to manage.
Maybe there's another reason for it and that is, I couldn't help even if I wanted to. If I thought primary school maths was tough, at least I could get away with drawing cutesy models and working out problem sums with narratives like "Ali and Ahmad have 25 balloons between them". How fun is that?
In secondary school, maths is serious business. Here are two samples of the no-nonsense questions from one of Lesley-Anne's math quizzes:
1) Given that 450 = 2 x 3² x 5² and 2625 = 3 x 5³ x 7, find
- the largest common factor of 450 and 2625
- the least common multiple of 450 and 2625, leaving your answer in index notation
- the smallest positive integer n, if 450n is a perfect cube
- the smallest positive interger m, if 450m is a multiple of 2625
Imagine a big, neon question mark above my head. What happened to all those fictitious names, the transferring of women and men into Halls A and B, and time taken to walk from playground to library? Sorry, this is secondary school. No more Ahmad and Ali. Didn't you hear? Maths is about NUMBERS. And PS, I have no burning desire to know the answers to the questions above so please don't email me.
After each topic, the teacher gives a quiz to test that the students understand what they have been taught. Those who score less than 6/10 have to attend maths remedial for that topic. I think it's quite a good system as the remedial sessions zoom in on specific topics rather than on specific individuals. After all, some kids may have difficulty only in selected topics.
And while we're on the subject of maths, Lesley-Anne called home sometime in January, informing me that she had been selected for Maths Olympiad training. She couldn't stop giggling as she told me. I asked her several times, "Sure or not???" She attributes it to her superior tikam skills on the MCQ diagnostic test ("Hmm... so many Cs, I think I'll colour a B...")
I let her go for the two-hour weekly training sessions, figuring hey, free maths tuition, why not? She's since been having thoughts about dropping out as she claims she has no idea what the teacher is talking about.
Bring back Ali and Ahmad, I say!