We often notice that our children here are very proficient in mathematical computation and calculation, as they can perform perfect addition and multiplication of multiple digits and numbers within seconds. Parents are proud of their child if they can work out the answer for computation mathematical questions in a short amount of time; and will always relate that to their child’s excellent mathematical skills. Children are forced to memorize mathematics – like memorizing addition tables, multiplication tables and use all sorts of “short-cut” methods or older mental calculation strategies -- in order to “learn” mathematics. The children do this without understanding the basic foundations of mathematics and reasons for performing an operation.
With the advancement and affordability in technological tools that allow adults and even children to afford a phone or tablet that are equipped with a calculator and mathematical software, human brains aren’t really needed to perform tedious computation or calculation anymore. Why torture their brains memorizing mathematics when their brains can be filled with something more relevant to what the modern economy needs today – Thinking. The skills that are required today are different from what was required 10 or 20 years ago in the sense that children who can compute complex equations of addition and subtraction aren’t needed; instead we need a child who can think logically, critically, and be able to reason and discern. We need a child who can visualize the problems, think heuristically, and solve unusual problems.
A new shift in learning mathematics from computation to thinking is needed today. The Singapore Minister of Education recognized the importance of thinking mathematics in the early 80s, and has successfully introduced their new curriculum based on problem solving in the early 90s. “Mathematics is an excellent vehicle for the development and improvement of a person’s intellectual competence in logical reasoning, spatial visualization, analysis and abstract thought”, states an important and famous quote appearing in every mathematics syllabuses documents published by Singapore MOE. Over the years, Singapore managed to produce top scorers in mathematics and problem solving in almost all important international benchmarking studies such as PISA and TIMSS on their mathematical skills and problem solving skills. Problem solving skills is recognized as one of the key success elements for an individual in the modern economy.
The Singapore Mathematics curriculum focuses on developing thinking in all aspects rather than only focusing on computation. Students will not be asked to work on tedious computation, such as dividing 71,138 by 29, and find the remainder. Students will not be drilled with solving fifty to hundred computation questions within 1 hour. This type of drilling practices will not benefit the children. They don’t learn anything from these drilling. What children needs is to be developed into a real thinker through a series of learning processes such as critical thinking, heuristics, logical reasoning, metacognition, modeling techniques and word problems approaches. A child who can think critically will be able to question the genuineness of a Facebook post. A child who is exposed to heuristics teaching will be able to understand there are always multiple solutions to a problem. Modeling techniques will aid a child in understanding a real world problem systematically, which will aid in their future studies in important subjects like physics.
In conclusion, mathematics is just a tool to develop thinking. Conceptual understanding is important in teaching mathematics, so you do not just understand “what is this” but “how is this” when it comes to learning mathematics. The objective is clear, we want a child who can think, not count.
By Gan Choon Keong
Managing Director of Seriously Addictive Mathematics (S.A.M) Malaysia Operations
Gan holds a Bachelor’s degree in Actuarial Science from National University of Malaysia. Before joining S.A.M, he was the Managing Director for Kodak Southeast Asia operations, and Business Development Director for Asia Pacific operation for Eastman Kodak Company’s Graphics Communications Group.
Seriously Addictive Mathematics - SAM is an award winning Maths program based on the Singapore Maths syllabus, suitable for children from 4 to 12 years of age. The program is delivered through a combination of Worksheets learning as well as Classroom learning. Students learn Singapore Maths at their own pace, according to their own ability. The unique program is rapidly gaining popularity with parents in Singapore as well as in other countries like Malaysia, Thailand, India and the United States.
S.A.M has centers around Malaysia:
Klang Valley: Bandar Utama, Aman Suria, Ara Damansara, Bandar Baru Klang, Bukit Jelutong, Cheras Bukit Segar, Kepong Sri Bintang, Kota Damansara, Kota Kemuning, Mahkota Cheras, Mont Kiara, Puchong Jaya, Setia Alam, SS2 PJ, Subang USJ
Negeri Sembilan: Seremban 2
Perak: Ipoh, Teluk Intan
Penang: Bukit Mertajam, Bayan Lepas
For more details and further information, call 03 7733 MATH (6284) or 012 3833 218 or email your enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit Seriously Addicitive Mathematics (S.A.M) on Facebook today!