20 May How is Primary 6 Maths Different from Primary 5 Maths?
As children move from Primary 5 to their last year in primary school and prepare to face the PSLE, many parents are undoubtedly concerned about whether their children will be able to cope. Being a milestone exam in students’ educational journey, the PSLE greatly determines which stream each student is best suited for and which secondary school they will attend. As parents, it is therefore important to ensure that your children are as prepared as they can possibly be.
Maths in particular is a subject that many Primary 6 students struggle to master, due to the amount of content they are required to learn and the increase in expectations from Primary 5. Scoring well in PSLE maths has become even more difficult in recent years as exams shift towards testing, reasoning and application skills rather than rote memorisation. In this situation, how can you help your child rise to the intellectual challenge and face it head-on?
Understanding how the Primary 6 maths syllabus differs from the Primary 5 syllabus is extremely important. Once you get acquainted with the expectations and requirements of the PSLE maths exam, you will then be able to come up with appropriate ways to help your child grasp the subject. In this article, we will explore some of the key differences between the two levels.
Number of topics
As expected, the Primary 6 maths syllabus features more topics than Primary 5. Students will be expected to learn new content such as algebraic methods, geometry of circles, analysis and interpretation of pie charts and more. Though many students will have encountered these concepts in passing, learning how to manipulate and perform calculations using these new methods may be a challenge for some.
Primary 6 maths is certainly a step up from Primary 5 maths, so the key is to practise, practise, practise! Besides doing extra problem sets, another way to help your child see these new topics in action is to look for real-world examples. For instance, if your child is struggling to remember the formula for area of a circle, ask them to compare the size of two 12-inch pizzas versus one 18-inch pizza. Understanding how maths is used in real life will increase their interest in the subject, and repeated practice will help them familiarise themselves with the new topics.
Depth of content
Primary 6 maths builds on everything that came before to a greater extent than Primary 5 maths. As such, students need to have a strong foundation in previously covered topics to ensure that they are prepared for the PSLE.
The Primary 6 syllabus features deeper dives into various topics that were previously covered at a surface level in Primary 5. For example, Primary 5 geometry covers the properties and angles of different types of triangles, while Primary 6 geometry goes one step further by adding special quadrilaterals like parallelograms, rhombuses and trapeziums into the mix.
If students show signs of being overwhelmed by the increase in the depth of content, parents can help to assuage their fears by demonstrating how these “deep dives” make use of the same skills that students already have. Going back to our earlier example, having to memorise the properties of quadrilaterals on top of the properties of triangles seems daunting at first, but calculating unknown angles in both shapes actually uses the same method.
The increase in depth helps to ensure that students are aware of the reasoning and processes involved in mathematical problem-solving. To do well in PSLE, students must understand what they are doing at every step, instead of simply plugging in old methods that they memorised.
This leads into another major difference between Primary 5 and Primary 6 maths: the learning objectives. As the last stage before PSLE, the Primary 6 maths syllabus encourages students to move away from rote memorisation and towards application of the concepts they have learnt. This represents a shift towards more skill-based learning, and helps to develop students’ analytical and quantitative reasoning skills.
One example of a Primary 6 maths question that requires this kind of critical thinking is a 2015 PSLE question that asked candidates to estimate the mass of 8 $1 coins. Four multiple-choice options were given: 6 grams, 60 grams, 600 grams and 6 kilograms.
After the exam, many parents complained that their children had not been taught this in school. However, this kind of question represents something that cannot simply be memorised. The brightest students would have been able to apply the concepts of estimation taught in class and linked them to real-world examples (such as the mass of a 500ml bottled drink) to arrive at the correct answer of 60 grams.
While it is certainly more difficult to anticipate these kinds of questions, learning how to derive the answer through reasoning is an extremely important skill that every student should master. This will help them to progress through higher levels of maths education in the future.
Setting the stage for future learning
Finally, Primary 6 maths is crucial in setting the stage for future learning of maths in secondary school and JC. While Primary 5 maths also does this to some extent, the Primary 6 syllabus is specially designed to ensure that students leave primary school with a strong foundation in key mathematical concepts that will become central to higher-level curricula.
For example, Primary 6 students gain some exposure to algebra and methods of algebraic calculation, while Primary 5 students generally do not. Primary 6 students learn about how letters can stand for numbers and are used in algebraic equations to calculate unknown quantities. They are also introduced to algebra-based methods of problem-solving, such as “units and parts”, to compare quantities of different sizes.
This brief foray helps to prepare Primary 6 school-leavers for secondary school and JC maths curriculums, where algebra is central to higher-order calculations and problem-solving. Furthermore, they help to strengthen analytical and reasoning skills that will be useful in all aspects of daily life.
Though the jump from Primary 5 to Primary 6 maths may seem daunting for many students, a good understanding of the requirements that students are expected to fulfil at PSLE may help to put it into perspective. However, if your child continues to struggle despite putting in their best effort in school, enrolling them in Primary 6 maths tuition will give them the extra help they need.
Einstein’s primary level tuition Singapore classes are taught by experienced teachers and specially designed to help your child maximise their potential. To find out more about our programme, get in touch with us today!