Being an examinable subject that students learn from an early age, having a strong academic position requires a strong math support as well. Just like English, Math itself is also a language at which students are trained to understand from young. The usage of different notations, symbols, and equations highlights this fact. Furthermore, students in Singapore are also expected to excel in the subject with our top PISA results in Math and Science. Math is also strongly interwoven into tertiary education – from a business degree to engineering and pure math degrees. Therefore, students need to be well versed in the mathematical language to do well in academia.

Math at different levels has different focuses. These require students to steer their study efforts in different ways, which will be elaborated on below.

At the primary school level, students are introduced to the foundations of the subject. Generally, the curriculum aims to set up a strong base for them to move onto more in-depth topics at the higher levels. In the lower primary, this means students are taught fractions, time, multiplication table, and other basics necessary to master the harder concepts. As they move onto upper primary, there is an increasing focus on training their problem-solving abilities. The widely recognised technique taught by MOE is through the use of the pictorial method – models.

Models help students to visualise the problem given and break down the long questions into specific information to find the unknowns. Mastery of model drawing is, therefore, a key step to acing math at the primary levels. This is especially so given that paper 2 of the PSLE is primarily made up of the longer problem sum questions.

Most Maths tutors therefore focus on practicing model drawing with their students. By practicing and breaking down the information given, students are trained to input the information into the models, easily solving the questions.

In lower secondary, students build upon their foundation in algebra. The use of unknowns and simultaneous equations is highly emphasised upon. Most questions build upon this knowledge. Most of the time, textbook questions provide sufficient practice for students to test their understanding from the classes. Math tuition should be sought if needed at this stage as it is helpful to seek help early.

In upper secondary, concepts are taught based on the assumption that students are able to use their knowledge from the lower secondary levels. There is also a differentiation between the 2 math subjects – Elementary Math and Additional Math. Maths tutors specialising in Math are mostly competent at both. Generally, E Math is perceived to be easier than A Math. It should be noted that instead of a different difficulty, they test a different set of skills instead

__E Math:__

- Focuses more on surface level math knowledge
- Emphasises more on the everyday application of the math knowledge taught
- Questions may be changed easily to test the application of the knowledge

__A Math: __

- Focuses more on deeper, research-level mathematics
- Emphasises more on using mathematical knowledge to know about more abstract issues (E.g. Use of calculus)
- Questions are usually of a specific format but need to be properly identified

Given that tertiary education is expected to prepare students for real-life work in the future, it is of no wonder that content taught at steered towards real-world problems. Depending on the area to which students choose to further their studies in, they are trained differently. For example, business students generally require mathematical knowledge pertaining to operations management in companies. Whereas for Engineering students, they generally specialise their knowledge in their various engineering specialisation. The focus on real-world problems in assignments and projects highlights the importance of application rather than regurgitation. Students need to be well-versed in the concepts and be able to see the links to the problem at hand.

Should one encounter difficulties, help should be sought from professors or private Maths tutors for the modules. Such help may come in the form of clarifications and reteaching of the concepts to solidify the understanding. Moreover, private Maths tutors at this level can often also provide help regarding project requirements with their expertise.

Math is a subject by which students need to be clear of the concepts involved. At the various levels, a strong conceptual understanding helps students to be able to identify the steps required to solve the questions. Practice, however, is also crucial. Without practice and feedback on their problems, students will face heightened difficulty in working on their weaker areas. For weak students who have problem understanding Math as a language, it is advisable to get external help, through Maths tuition, as they will need the explanations provided by experienced Maths tutors to guide them. Private Maths tuition is thus a tool to reduce the learning curve.

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