Thursday, February 25, 2010

Maths mummy retires

I realise I haven't had a maths post in a long time which is kind of ironic since at one point, I think my blog was primarily about maths.

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
2) Find a three-digit number A such that A + 17 is divisible by 15, A + 77 is divisible by 25, and A + 107 is divisible by 35.

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!


Lilian said...

Maybe parents are more hands-off cos PSLE already kind of determined schoolchildren's paths. The next major testing isn't for another 4 years. For PSLE, everyone is scrambling to get into coveted schools and programmes, so understandably, parents are more edgy.

For me, I'm happy there's no more of Ahmad, Ali and Ah Kow giving and taking marbles and candies. Those problems were too mind-boggling.

Not that these questions are any better for me. But at least they are the type of questions Brian prefers.

More Math posts please. I have very little idea what is being taught at secondary level now. Thanks for this!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like going to secondary is quite cool, nothing like that daunting PSLE. *Sigh* sometimes I wish to speed through time and get over and done with that SUPER exam at P6. Somehow I feel that I also will relax more in secondary school because both school and kid will take over most of the responsibilities from there onwards... correct or not huh?


monlim said...

Lilian: Yalah, PSLE is one stress fest. Aiyah, marbles or candies, Brian never had a problem with them mah - I was the one who had to worry over solving them so I could teach L-A! But sec schl level, I wave my white flag now. Can't even understand the questions! No idea how I ever passed Maths C at A Levels...

QX: Somehow when the kid goes to sec schl, they suddenly become teenagers in our minds even though it was just a few mths ago that we were fussing over them! So inevitably we feel more relaxed... I think. Ask me again when L-A's next major exam comes up!

Elan said...

It's early days yet but i'm liking this new secondary school maths already.
C hasn't asked me for any help with Math homework (very stressful for us both in P6 because we both had to take hours to figure out just one problem, if at all).
In fact he came home with 94% for his first class test which I didn't even know he was going to have (apparently neither did he till a few days before).... i think although it's supposed to be a school based GEP class, the standards are not anywhere near the primary GEP math or maybe he just wasn't wired for Ali, Ahmad, ah Kow and Mary and their various confectionary, stationery and fruity transactions
Lillian: if C can get 94%, Brian will definitely be able to get perfect marks everytime, with 2 hands tied behind his back and his eyes blindfolded, writing with his toes ;-).

monlim said...

Elan: I'm just laughing at the imagery! But I understand what you mean. I haven't helped L-A with maths at all this year and although she hasn't been getting great marks for the quizzes, at least she hasn't been called up for maths remedial either YET, which is a nice change!

It's nice to know that there's a possibility our kids may be getting the hang of maths, eh? Yalah, maybe it's all the candies and Ahmads and Ah Lings that confused them :D

Jo said...

Aiyoh just started the Ah Kow n Ah Lian models with my dear P2 daughter ... she's been asking me why need to draw models for add/minus problem questions ...
sigh ...this whole model thing is really new to me & am trying to get used to it ... how did you learn it ? From their textbks ? I wish the school could conduct a parents' workshop on this !

monlim said...

Jo: Welcome to the world of primary maths! And err... L-A and Andre's school actually did conduct a workshop for parents on models :P It's all a matter of getting used to it lah, I learnt from trying to solve L-A's maths problems! I believe MOE has published a guide book book on models, after many parents started asking about it. You can buy it at Popular. Or check out my old maths posts lor :)

Jo said...

Thanks Mon ! Yes, I learnt quite a bit from your earlier math posts ! I have the MOE model book but it doesn't explain it as well as your posts ! find time to practise with my daughter ... hubby is a firm believer in algebra so he is totally puzzled by this model method - haha ! I shall get him to read your posts now !

monlim said...

Jo: Hope I didn't come across as trying to hard sell my blog! Actually, I've come to realise that algebra is still a great method as it can solve problems that models sometimes can't. But models allow kids to see the problems visually as they build their skills so eventually, once they get the hang of it, they may not need it anymore. Your dd is only in p2 so you've still got lots of time. Good luck!!

Lilian said...

Elan, you are a riot lah! But looks like you're definitely in my "NO MORE ALI AND AHMAD" camp.

Mon, as if you don't remember, Brian and I had so much trouble with models, finally had to fall back on algebra. You are really Model Mum lah, even now, I still have phobia of models.

Puzzled by Puzzles! said...

Hello, this is Sandy's DS. I enjoy reading your blog.
1a) 75
1b) 2 x 3^2 x 5^3 x 7
1c) 2
1d) 35
2) 523
Just trying out, despite your lack of burning desire to know the answers.

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