Let your child try that problem sum on their own!


THIS kind of personal struggle that a child goes through during the problem solving stages is important for the learning insight gained, said coach Kevin. He was sharing with an audience of parents who had signed up for the first ThinkingMath for Parents Workshop held at Goldhill Plaza on 14-15 September.

In their home facilitation, he urged parents to refrain from involving themselves too soon when their child encounters a mental block in their problem solving. So how could they help? To this end, he cited some ways of guiding the child by appropriate questioning to arrive at the solution on their own instead of doing it for them.

The ThinkingMath for Parents Workshop organised by onSponge Pte Ltd aimed to equip parent facilitators with an appreciation of the strategies that would help their child to solve problem sums more efficiently.

Attended by parents of children from P3 to P6, the post-workshop survey registered 100% satisfaction by the attendees with requests for more such workshops. More than half had children in P5 reflecting the concern to give their children a head start in revision and to prepare them for the PSLE the following year. One forward-thinking parent with a P3 child came to learn how ThinkingMath strategies could help to prepare her child for P4 and beyond. 

A systematic approach to understanding word problems

Parent Irene Then signed up because she wanted to help her daughter Christine in P5 to further better her problem sum solving skills. A key challenge that she and other parents face is in translating the word problem into mathematical steps to progress to the required solution.

At the workshop, parents learned the need to approach the text in the problem step by step. By tackling one statement at a time, the information in the words can be converted into the required numerical steps that lead to the solution..

"My methods are too complex"

Echoing the feeling of other parents, Sylvia Chong said: "My maths solutions/methods are 'outdated' and too complex for my child." Her daughter Therese is in P4 and uses the Conquer Problem Sums book in her school.

While methods like algebra may be used to solve certain primary level problem sums, such solutions could involve several relatively complicated stages that most primary level students are not ready for conceptually. In comparison, coach Kevin showed that by applying the ThinkingMath strategies the student can usually arrive at the solution in no more than five or six steps.

Tips on presenting working steps and solution

Coupled with quips and a warm approachable manner, coach Kevin shared with parents a number of efficient ways about how to prepare their child for examinations in general and the PSLE in particular. Parents welcomed the tips he had on how to avoid mistakes that could result in mark deductions.

For example, using sample solutions he illustrated the:

  • need for simple labelling and leading statements in the working steps that could help students to keep track of what was required for the solution. A failure to have proper labels in the working stages could result in the student going off the track and presenting the wrong answer instead.
  • proper use of the equal sign in the working steps, highlighting instances of correct and incorrect usage.

In addition, he reminded parents that students need to "ask to learn". By questioning themselves at various stages of working, they will improve in their understanding of the concepts involved. In this regard, he provided parents with guiding questions to lead their child during their home facilitation. 

Parent reactions

Hong Soo Hoon found the workshop useful and helpful. She facilitates her daughter Jing Yuen who is in P4. 

Jacqueline Goh observed that her son Daniel in P5 now has a more confident attitude towards solving problem sums after he attended a previous ThinkingMath workshop. She facilitates her son as he does his work at home. A key challenge she faced was in "seeing" the question. In this context, she found the parent workshop very useful.

Lynn Mok said her daughter Jeneen who is in P6 displays more confidence in solving problem sums and doing so faster after attending a ThinkingMath workshop. Her key challenge when facilitating her daughter was to be able to explain the problem clearly and advise on which strategy to apply. To further help her child, she signed up for this parent workshop which she has found helpful.

Hwang Hong Wei signed up to help his daughter Kristi in P5 with her revision. He sometimes sits down with her as she does her problem sums, and in this context he found the parent workshop offered useful learning insights.

Posting in the onSponge Forum

Parents also saw a demonstration on how they could access the online public Forum to post questions. Coach Kevin noted that this afforded an ongoing opportunity to clarify doubts, and share learning and teaching insights beyond the workshop. 

In addition, a closed online forum has been created for the workshop attendees. Marketing associate for onSponge, Wendy Choong said that this is part of the online support onSponge provides parents who attend the workshops. The private forum would allow them to share challenges and insights, and discuss with other parent attendees and the workshop organisers about issues covered at the workshop.   

Sylvia Chong who found the workshop "excellent" wanted to know of future workshops. In this context, parents could visit www.onsponge.com regularly for such news. Additionally, such information will also be available via the onSponge community newsletter that is sent to the email address members provided at registration.

Limited spaces are still available for the next ThinkingMath for Parents Workshop that is held on 23 & 24 September.  For more information, visit the workshop page or register now at SHOP.


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