I remember that as a kid, I asked my maths teacher what I still believe today to be a valuable question: how does algebra help me in real life? I think that for many children like myself who are more visually-oriented needs to learn through what they see, not what they hear or even read. They need to see first-hand just how useful maths can be to be motivated or convinced that maths is worth learning.
At Alexandra Primary School, the teachers conduct lessons in precisely that manner – by including various hands-on activities like shopping and whipping up desserts. It ‘s all part of the “Fun Math” programme at the school that starts as early as Primary 1. Students will head outdoors and explore school grounds to learn how they can apply mathematical concepts (such as addition and multiplication) to their surroundings. For example, they might be asked to count the number of lights in a room or the number of rocks in the school.
The lessons become more advanced in Primary 2 when financial literacy gets involved, and students have to team up and come up with shopping lists based on a scenario presented to them. Using a fictitious currency, they would visit a mock-up store in school to buy items they need.
For Primary 3 and 4, students will measure ingredients to make a dessert or visit the HDB Hub to find out how geometry and shapes can be applied when constructing a home.
Besides learning these important maths concepts, students also learn how to work together. “The students have to work in groups, and their relationship with one another has improved,” says Mrs Judy Lim, head of the department for Mathematics at Alexandra Primary School. “In the dessert-making activity, students of different abilities are grouped. They would help one another and tap on others’ strengths to work effectively.”
Besides teachers, parents have also expressed support for such a programme. “We’ve had parent volunteers who helped with the logistics for the shopping activity, and they have the first-hand experience in working with our students,” explains Mrs Lim. “They saw that the students enjoyed themselves, and they are supportive of the activities.”
The students too are excited about such engaging activities. “The students would ask many questions, and their energy levels are generally quite high during the activities,” shares Mrs Lim.
So perhaps these more practical lessons are just what children need to learn better. Teachers aren’t the only ones who could help their students learn this way. Parents too could engage their kids in similar activities I’ve shared on this page before to better motivate their minds every day before school.
Give it a try and feel free to share in the comments whether if these solutions help your children learn better.