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A Twist to the Gifted Education Programme

On 5 October night, Talking Point on Channel 5 was showcasing an interesting topic: I Want to Be in GEP!

What that episode of Talking Point wants to find out is whether you can train the gifted as parents are sending their children to enrichment classes to prepare the children for a series of test at Primary 3. There is a father who doesn’t believe in his son making his own choices, and thus spend more than S$7000 for GEP Preparation Course. As the episode proceeds, it is clear that the children do not want to be in GEP; rather the “I” in the title actually refers to the parents.

Another mother buys assessment books from Secondary 1 and Secondary 2 for her son who is in Primary 5.

Correspondingly, what is so special about the GEP?

The Gifted Education Programme (GEP) was set up by the Ministry of Education to cater to the intellectually gifted students. This programme aims to develop gifted children to their top potential and it places a special emphasis on higher-order thinking and creative thought.

Through the aforementioned series of tests, the top 1 per cent of the student population will be selected to enter the programme.

It is a good initiative by the MOE, but the problems come when parents misunderstand the purpose of GEP and start preparing their children for GEP, which as shown in Talking Point, it is not a good idea after all. The child may pass the tests and get into GEP but later suffer stress because he / she cannot keep up with the syllabus.

Students in GEP are also complaining about the high expectancy of teachers on their work and they feel stressful. Being in the GEP means less free time, more homework and demanding teacher for the students.

After reading on books on stress, competition and learning for children and a blog written by a student in GEP, I wish there is a twist in the GEP.

Suggestions

  1. Drop the name “Gifted”.
  2. As the mother of Primary 5 student finds out, the GEP is just learning two years in advance. Is it true? If yes, I would like to suggest giving Primary 5-equivalent tests to Primary 4 students. If they can score 95% or above for all subjects, promote the Primary 4 students to Primary 5.
  3. For students who have been promoted, assign them as young teachers to teach their peers. In this way, all parties involved are benefited. The teachers can prepare for activities that challenge the promoted students, the promoted students can be trained on leadership and the peers can learn better. Learning to work with students of different levels actually prepares students in real life.
  4. Other leadership roles, such as the class monitor, prefect, etc, can be assigned to the promoted students.
  5. Rather than giving more homework, the teachers can identify which areas interest the promoted students and allow them to explore in the same classroom or a separate classroom. Some activities to challenge the mind are Sudoku, Rubik’s cube, chess, debate, etc.
  6. The promoted students continue to take the national Primary School Leaving Examination like other mainstream students. When they are in secondary schools, provide them with the real life problems that we are facing, and let them experiment and come out with a solution. These are projects to challenge the mind and benefit the country.
  7. For secondary students, they can expand their knowledge in quantum physics, astronomy, plant science (to make a better Garden City), etc. Let their interests guide them; they will be more enthusiastic to learn what interest them.
  8. If the promoted student chooses not to be promoted, he / she can stay in the same level as his / her friends and do activities in suggestion 3 to suggestion 7.
  9. The promoted students are allowed to take “time-off” from school as long as they can keep up with the syllabus.

Why I do not start with Primary 3 students? — Primary 3 students are still young and a year difference means they have a year to develop their intellects.

Why I want the promoted students to teach their peers? — From GEP, we know that the students are labelled as “smart” and they compete with their friends who are not in the GEP. Their teachers also always compare them with those who are not in the GEP.

Competition ⇒ Stress ⇒ Not performing optimally

By teaching their peers, they learn how to explain better and able to identify which knowledge they lack. Also, if the promoted students only mix with like-minded students, will they be frustrated when they meet a mediocre colleague who can’t see things eye to eye as them?

By allowing the students to explore their areas of interests, we will create lifelong learners, instead of learning robots who can learn best but cannot apply knowledge to real life.

The above suggestions are my two cents. Any comments are welcome.

 

 

 

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I Don’t Know Babies Burp

*Burp*     “Excuse me.”

“It’s ok. Everyone burps, even babies.”

“I don’t know babies burp.”

It was the conversation between me and an 11-year-old girl who just burped.

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Before I was pregnant, I told my future baby that I am ready for him or her, physically, mentally, physiologically, psychologically, financially, you name it. I read up books on pregnancy, articles on how to raise a child, save money, exercise to keep myself fit and healthy, etc. Yes, I thought I was ready. But I was wrong. The labour was a horror even though I had attended the antenatal class and learnt how to “push”. Despite knowing that breast milk is little but sufficient for baby on first few weeks, my baby keeps crying for milk every hour, 24 hours everyday. Three months after the labour, things slowly get better with an exhausted mum, thinking how arrogant I was when I said I was ready.

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Preparation for baby

You can never be ready enough. Self-confidence is good. But over-confidence will take you by surprise. Even if you have studied diligently and done all the homework, you still need to do revision before the examination. For students who are in Primary 5 this year, it is never too early to start preparing for PSLE next year. Happy preparing and getting ready!

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Let’s Learn Mathematics (Primary Level) — Model Method 4

Continuation from Let’s Learn Mathematics (Primary Level) — Model Method 3

Here is another example on comparison model to compare two or more items.

Question: 8 similar dictionaries and 12 similar assessment books cost S$196. Each assessment book costs S$2 less than each dictionary. How much does each dictionary cost?

First, draw the model based on the question.

joyfulyue.com_comparison-model_Primary-Mathematics

Comparison model based on the question

Each assessment book costs S$2 less than each dictionary, thus 8 similar dictionaries cost S$16 more than 12 similar assessment books.

S$2 x 8 = S$16

From the model, we can see that the total cost is 8 units of dictionaries, 12 units of assessment books and S$16. To find the cost of a single unit, we subtract S$16 from the total cost.

S$196 − S$ 16 = S$180

Total units = 8 + 12

= 20 units

S$180 ÷ 20 = S$9

The cost of a single unit is S$9. The question asks for the cost of each dictionary, thus we need to add S$2 to get the final answer.

S$9 + S$2 = S$11

Each dictionary costs S$11.

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Disclaimer: The Mathematics questions are purely created for discussion purpose. Any resemblance to actual questions from books or schools is coincidental.

When Good Memory Doesn’t Help

I have been emphasizing on the understanding of Mathematics questions umpteenth time. Most of the time, a student is unable to solve the problem because he or she does not understand the Mathematics question.

There is this student who has very good memory but the good memory does not help him in solving Mathematics questions.

Background of the student: When he was in Primary One (7 years old), his Mathematics teacher at school has scolded him a lot of times and almost given up on him. He has developed a phobia for Mathematics since then. Thus far, in Primary Two, he is surviving in Mathematics by “memorizing” Mathematics questions.

Let’s look at the example 1,

Jane had S$ 5. Her father gave her S$ 10 as pocket-money. How much money does she have now?

5 + 10 = 15

Now she has S$ 15.

 

joyfulyue.com_model-method_Maths

Example 1 is a common question for lower Primary Mathematics. The keyword is “Her father gave her”, so the operation used is addition. The question is straightforward and can be solved easily.

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Let’s look at example 2,

Jenny had S$ 5. Her mother gave her some amount of money. Now she has S$ 15. How much money did her mother give her?

Both examples look similar, but they are different. After reading the question to the aforementioned student, he insists to use the operation addition to solve the problem because of the phrase “her mother gave her”. He told me, his school Mathematics teacher taught him, gave = addition.

Therefore, I spent time explaining the question to him and finally we solved the problem using the operation subtraction.

I can understand the frustration of the school Mathematics teacher when he or she needs to spend time to explain one question to only one student who does not seem to understand. He or she has the whole class to take care of; giving attention to only one student is not an option.

Nonetheless, I hope that school Mathematics teachers do not teach the students, especially younger students, to memorize questions. THIS DOES NOT HELP!

I have upper primary students who face the same problem because of the understanding issue. With the phobia and the memorization, the same problem is repeated in a cycle until they meet a teacher who can patiently explain the questions to them. By then, whether they are willing to accept the “understanding of the question” method is another problem to solve.

For parents, if you find out that your children face problem at school, please communicate with the school teachers in a tactful way. Extra lessons or remedial lessons for your children are meant to help your children. Also, listen to the advice with an open heart. It may be difficult to accept that your children are slow in learning (Who would want his or her child to be labelled as stupid?), but cooperation with the school teachers will help the children more.

Furthermore, parents can also help the children at home by doing revision together with the children. No matter how busy is your schedule, I believe there is nothing more important than the children. When the children grow old, it is more difficult to mend the problem.

Even if there is no feedback from the school teachers, parents may take the initiative to ask the school teachers on the progress of the children and how they are coping at school. Some children might be too shy to ask questions even though they do not understand. This will create bigger problem in future.

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Disclaimer:

1. The Mathematics questions are purely created for discussion purpose. Any resemblance to actual questions from books or schools is coincidental.

2. The student is a case study for parents, teachers and tutors alike to understand why your children or students have phobia in Mathematics. Hopefully we can create a joyful environment for children to learn Mathematics.

 

Let’s Learn Mathematics (Primary Level) — Model Method 3

Continuation from Let’s Learn Mathematics (Primary Level) — Model Method 2

2. Comparison model

Comparison model is used to compare two or more items.

Example (a): Jenny has 6 dresses and 2 pairs of pants. How many more dresses than pants does she have?

6 – 2 = 4

She has 4 more dresses than pants.

joyfulyue.com_model-method_Maths

Model for example 2(a)

Example (b): A pair of pants costs S$35. A dress costs S$ 10 more than a pair of pants. If Jenny buys 3 dresses and 2 pair of pants, how much does she need to pay?

The cost of a dress = 35 + 10

= 45

Total cost = (3 x 45) + (2 x 35)

= 135 + 70

= 205

She needs to pay S$ 205.

joyfulyue.com_model-method_Maths

Model for example 2(b)

To be continued in Let’s Learn Mathematics (Primary Level) — Model Method 4.

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Notes:

1. If you cannot draw nicely, cannot draw to scale, etc, no need to worry, this is Mathematics, not arts. Remember, it is the understanding of the questions that is the most important.

2. There are different types of Mathematics questions but there is only one model method. Do more Mathematics questions to practise on the model method.

3. Be flexible about the models, you draw the model according to the question, not to what you remember from previous question(s).

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Disclaimer: The Mathematics questions are purely created for discussion purpose. Any resemblance to actual questions from books or schools is coincidental.

Let’s Learn Mathematics (Primary Level) — Model Method 2

Now we know that understanding of Mathematics questions is more important than the tools or methods, let’s look at different models that we can draw to help us in solving Mathematics questions.

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1. Taking the example from Let’s Learn Mathematics (Primary Level) — Model Method 1, the model is simple yet powerful. It can be used to find the total (addition) or the difference (subtraction) of the same item.

Example (a): Jane had S$ 5. Her father gave her S$ 10 as pocket-money. How much money does she have now?

5 + 10 = 15

Now she has S$ 15.

 

joyfulyue.com_model-method_Maths

Model for example 1(a)

 

 

Example (b): Jenny has 10 stamps, Kenny has 8 stamps and Lenny has 15 stamps. How many stamps do they have altogether?

10 + 8 + 15 = 33

They have 33 stamps altogether.

joyfulyue.com_model-method_Maths

Model for example 1(b)

Example (c): Jenny had 12 erasers. She gave 2 erasers to Lenny. How many erasers does she have now?

12 – 2 = 10

She has 10 erasers now.

 

joyfulyue.com_model-method_Maths

Model for example 1(c)

To be continued in Let’s Learn Mathematics (Primary Level) — Model Method 3.

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Disclaimer: The Mathematics questions are purely created for discussion purpose. Any resemblance to actual questions from books or schools is coincidental.

Let’s Learn Mathematics (Primary Level) — Model Method 1

Do you have a model ruler?

This is the question that my students ask me when they are solving Mathematics questions that need to draw model.

When the model method was first introduced, many students and parents face problems on how to use the method to answer the questions. Along the years, students and parents are more acceptive to the method. Somebody even came out with a model ruler and gave names to different models drawn for different types of questions. For example, you draw a comparison model to solve questions that ask you to compare.

For me, this is bizarre. As long as you understand the question, you do not need a model ruler or a name for your model to solve the question. There are two similar questions in this post. I would like to show how the students may confuse themselves if they do not understand the questions.

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Q1: There are a total of 110 participants in a seminar and 60 of them are women. How many of the participants are men?

The model for Q1 is as below:

joyfulyue.com_Maths_Bar-modelling

Bar model for Q1

To find the number of male participants, the operation used is subtraction.

110 – 60 = 50

There are 50 men.

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Q2: There are 50 men and 60 women in a seminar. How many participants are there altogether?

The model of Q2 is as below:

joyfulyue.com_Maths_Bar-modelling

Bar model for Q2

To find the number of total participants, the operation used is addition.

60 + 50 = 110

There are 110 participants altogether.

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From the above two questions, the same model is used, but with a slight difference. We need to understand the question in order to put the numbers correctly and subsequently solve the question. As you can see, the operation used in Q1 and Q2 is different too.

If we do not understand the question, we do not even know which operation to use. Teachers must always remind the students to understand the question rather than memorize a certain type of model. If you can draw a model, but do not understand the question, it is pointless. The main aim in Mathematics is to find the answer, if you do not understand the question, how are you going to solve the question correctly?

I hope students, teachers and parents put the focus at the right place. The focus is the understanding of the question, not the tools or method used.

To be continued in Let’s Learn Mathematics (Primary Level) — Model Method 2.

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Disclaimer: The Mathematics questions are purely created for discussion purpose. Any resemblance to actual questions from books or schools is coincidental.