How to develop students’ interest in mathematics

For interest in Math, it is totally understandable that many students may find math boring. One way to overcome it is to try to think of each Math question like a puzzle or game (like a Sudoku or Crossword Puzzle). Solving a Math question correctly should bring joy and a sense of achievement just like completing a stage of a game or a puzzle. And the more questions one solves, the better one gets at it.
“Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty—a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture, without appeal to any part of our weaker nature, without the gorgeous trappings of painting or music, yet sublimely pure, and capable of a stern perfection such as only the greatest art can show.”
― Bertrand Russell
In the Singapore context, basically, Math is quite compulsory in SG education system (up till JC, even arts subject combinations requires math), but once JC is over one can skip Math entirely in university. So a secondary student just have to work hard for math for the upcoming few years, and “get it over with”, if he/she really does not like math. Similarly for Chinese, students need to work hard up till Secondary 4, score well and be exempted in JC. Math can be considered the “easiest” subject to get A, as long as one gets the answer correct he/she will get the full marks, many students complain that getting A for English or other humanities subjects like Literature is much harder due to strict or subjective marking.
The important thing is not to give up. Currently, in the Singapore education system it is quite common for students to “fail” exams (fail as in score below 50), especially in secondary school and JC internal exams. It is very possible to improve upon working hard after the failure.
“Trust me, its normal, I never passed a single A math test/exam during my sec 3/4 school years, got A2 for O levels in the end. (Mugged really hard after prelims) What matters is understanding the content I feel.”
– This student never passed a single A math test/exam up till prelims but eventually got A2 for O levels after “mugging” really hard after prelims.
Source: Reddit
trust me youre not alone. from mid sec 3 to prelims in sec 4 i got F9 all the way. but then in the end i got an A2 in olevels. one thing u need to know is to NEVER stop believing in yourself. keep on pushing urself all the way till the finishing point. aft seeing my score for prelims, i alm gave up but i told myself to atleast PASS amaths and i’d be satisfied with it. i started spamming my TYS, practice as much as i could. never give up and whenever in doubt just ask ur cher. it rly helps! atb and ik u can do it:))
Source: Reddit
dude chill. i got 8% for mye in sec 3 for A Math. form teacher told me drop the subject, but i didnt. ended up o level got A2. just do work given and practice more.
– This guy even more “power”, he got just 8/100 for Mid-year exams, but improved to A2 in O Levels.
Source: Reddit

Hardest Questions in Additional Mathematics (A Math)

Additional Mathematics questions can range from standard all the way to super challenging among the secondary schools in Singapore.

Certain schools (such as IP schools), and also some schools such as Anderson, Chung Cheng High School, are well known for setting hard A Math papers.

Note that even though top schools set hard A Math papers, it is not often the case that top schools teach or prepare well their students for the tests! Often, the teachers in school teach at a basic level (due to time constraints or other factors), but still test at an advanced level. Hence, many students in top IP schools are not well prepared for their school’s tests (unless they have excellent self study skills or have a parent or tutor to guide them). It is not uncommon for a student in a top IP school to be failing his/her math tests due to the above phenomena (difficult tests which do not match what is taught in school).

Some of the more difficult types of questions in the A Math syllabus are listed below.


  1. Conditions for ax^2 + bx + c to be always positive (or always negative).
    This type of question has potential to be very tricky. Somehow, many students will assume wrongly that b^2-4ac is always positive as well (where it should be the opposite).
  2. Partial Fractions with Improper Fractions.
    Only top schools tend to test improper partial fractions. Many students will miss out long division or make mistakes along the way.
  3. Binomial Theorem.
    Many students have serious problems with this topic. Also, not many seem to know that {n\choose 2}=\frac{n(n-1)}{2}.



  • Sketching of Tangent graphs.
    90% of all sketching questions are on Sine or Cosine. Only top schools will set tangent sketching questions, and many students will be caught unaware.
  • Half-angle formula sin(x/2) or Quadruple angle formula sin(4x)
    Top schools like to test half-angle formula, many students who have not seen such questions will be stuck.


  • Finding area to the left of the curve, i.e. \int x\,dy.
    Most schools kind of brush off this type of questions during teaching. But it is a hot topic for testing among top schools. Hence, students will have a hard time solving it if they lack practice for this type of questions.

Is CCA important in JC?

CCA enhances the overall portfolio of the student, but at the end of the day, the foundation of the portfolio is still ‘A’ levels.

Especially for local uni admission, CCA is not really taken into consideration.

For top tier scholarships / top local courses, it would require good ‘A’ level results + good CCA though.

Question from JC1 student on Kiasuparents: “but the school focuses a lot on other areas of development like CCA and etc so i want to know that is it really that important cos i don’t feel like taking part in all these activities anyone got experience in these areas??”:

I would think for majority of students, it would be better to prioritize to get:
Good ‘A’ level results & Mediocre CCA
rather than Mediocre ‘A’ level results & Good CCA.

Of course, if one is all-rounded, one can aim for the ideal goal of:
Good ‘A’ level results & Good CCA.
(To be realistic, not everyone can achieve that…)

The only exception is if one’s CCA results is so excellent (e.g. win top award at national or international level), it can potentially lead to special case arrangements for university admission even with poor ‘A’ level results. Note that this is probably a 0.1% case scenario for top CCA performers, a typical “President of CCA group” position may not suffice, let alone an ordinary member of the CCA.

CCA training hours can vary widely among different CCAs. I have seen students with CCA that can last up to 9pm or later on weekdays. This can be extremely tiring considering that school starts at 7am next day. Someone succinctly summarized on Kiasuparents that: “In conclusion, the minimal you need to do is to choose a CCA with only one session per week and make yourself physically present on that day.

Poll Results: How many marks to get ‘A’ for H2 Math

Almost 100 people have voted on the poll on “How many marks to get ‘A’ for H2 Math“.

The results show that the majority (57.6%) of voters think it takes at least 75 marks to get ‘A’ for H2 Math. Notably, a significant percentage (27.17%) think that it takes 80 marks and above to get ‘A’ for H2 Math.

Students who have taken the H2 Math exam can actually estimate the cut-off point for ‘A’ grade quite well. Basically, the worked solutions are typically released by seniors/tutors, and students can estimate their own marks rather easily. Then, they can compare with their actual grade received.

Nevertheless, the above is just a poll, it may not be 100% accurate and it also depends on the difficulty of that year’s exam. An easier exam would naturally lead to a higher mark required for ‘A’ grade for H2 Maths.

Is there bell curve for ‘A’ levels?

This is a tricky question. The technically correct answer is that there is no bell curve, but there is a similar thing called “grade boundaries”. It is like certain schools saying that they have no Midyear Exam, but there is a “Block Test”. Read more about whether there is bell curve for ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels.

Key Topics for IP Additional Mathematics

The following are some of the most important topics for Integrated Programme (IP) Additional Mathematics. Also applicable for the usual ‘O’ level Additional Mathematics.

Notice that Secondary 3 topics are very important as well, for the final Promo or ‘O’ levels. This can be a major problem for students who only start to study seriously in Secondary 4 — it can be a tough job to catch up with the important Secondary 3 topics.

Secondary 3 topics

  • Binomial Theorem
  • Indices and Logarithms
  • Coordinate Geometry of Circles
  • Linear Law

Secondary 4 topics

  • Trigonometry: R formula and Graphs
  • Differentiation and its Applications
  • Integration and its applications (including area under the curve)

Diary of a PhD Taxi Driver: True Stories From Singapore’s Most Educated Cabdriver

I recall that this was very big news around 10 years ago. Basically, the author Dr. Cai Mingjie was a research scientist with a PhD from Stanford, specializing in Life Sciences (biochemistry and cell biology). However, he was fired/retrenched at the height of his career, for reasons that were largely unknown. He did not manage to find a job initially and became a taxi driver in November 2008, which he persisted for around six months. (He managed to find another job, though non-academic, subsequently.)

He started a blog called “A Singapore Taxi Driver’s Diary” (now deactivated), which became hugely popular. Subsequently, he published his blog as a book which is featured below.

For a free preview of his stories, one can actually click on the Amazon book preview to read a couple of the short stories. The stories are quite insightful, and motivational in a way. Taxi drivers have a unique perspective since they are able to observe all strata of society on a daily basis.

The free preview on Amazon has the following stories:

  • Day One (first day of working as taxi driver)
  • Broken Barrier and Two Unforgettable Customers
  • Preface & Epilogue (which describes the interesting background of the author)

Diary of a Taxi Driver: True Stories From Singapore’s Most Educated Cabdriver

Overall, the author deserves deep respect for being 能屈能伸, being able to take temporary setbacks; able to bow and rise at will. After all, being a taxi driver is a honest job.

I think the above book and news represented the start of the “bursting of the bubble” of Life Sciences, at least in Singapore. (If a life science researcher with Stanford PhD has problem finding jobs, how about those with lesser qualifications?) For those who recall, life sciences was hugely popular as a major around 10-20 years ago (2000-2010). Many JC students, including many of my classmates/acquaintances would choose it as their major in University. The life sciences department was one of the largest compared to other sciences like Physics or Chemistry. It turned out that the job opportunities in Life Sciences was not that plenty, and many would end up in careers totally unrelated to Life Sciences / biology.

Read also:

“Toxic environment” in Elite Secondary School (Singapore)

Just came across this Facebook post (originally by Pamela Lim):

For convenience, the post is reproduced below. Although the school is not explicitly named, it is quite easy to guess from the description which school it is! (It is probably a school that “offers a highly accelerated mathematics and science curriculum integrated with language, arts, humanities, sports, in a modular system.”)

Case study:

Anthony’s PSLE result was sterling and he got into an elite of elite secondary school, one that promises more than academic rigor, their high school credits can be used as credit transfers into a top university in Singapore.

Needless to say, it is a sought after secondary school, and the kids are studying 3-4 years ahead of their age peers in the areas they specialize in.

The celebration was short-lived. Within six months, the parents reached out to me. The high IQ child has school refusal problems. So I got our counselors involved to see how we can help.

Our advice was to remove him from a toxic environment where kids are often driven to a place where they feel deflated, over challenged and unaccomplished. We feel he should go to where his gifts are appreciated, where he can score well and his self-esteem is high. On the side, we promised to offer enrichment that will challenge and stimulate his intellectual needs. We felt he needed both social and intellectual support, and since he cannot get them both in the same place, we suggest splitting them.

Not unexpectedly, the parents and child felt that it was a ‘waste’ to give up a prestigious school, so they stayed. Yesterday, we received another call. In the six months since we last spoke, the child moved to an international school, and now refuse to go to the new school as well. In fact, he is refusing to get out of the house, so can we send in some psychologist.

To be honest, I don’t think we can ‘rescue’ a child like that, no matter how much they offer to pay us. He is only 14, and just 2 years ago, he was acing his cohort, happy about his situation, full of confidence of his future.

Source: Facebook

Just a disclaimer that “Toxic Environment” is a subjective term, one man’s meat can be another man’s poison. However, the fact of the matter is that many schools (especially elite schools like IP schools) do have high academic stress. The level of the internal tests in top IP schools is much higher than ‘O’ level standard. It is quite common for top students in PSLE to “fail” those tests in the elite IP schools, especially if they can’t adapt quickly to the style of tests.

Most notably, in top IP schools, what is tested in exams is quite often not taught in class! Students are expected to extrapolate the basic material taught in class, to tackle the tough questions in exams. Basically students need to 举一反三!(The teacher teach you one thing e.g. 1+1=2, the student needs to extrapolate and deduce for yourself 3 other things e.g. 1+2+3+…+99+100=5050.)

Needless to say, only minority of students (even in top schools) are capable of the above. Hence, that is why self-learning in the form of challenging assessment books or tuition has become quite popular as it is one way of overcoming the “teach simple, test difficult” style in top secondary schools or JCs.

Recommended books:

China Education Documentary

Similar to Singapore, China has different tiers of universities. The top tier in China is Tier 1 (一本). Within Tier 1, there is a further differentiation of “Project 985” and “Project 211” universities, the former being more selective. That is, Project 985 universities is a subset of Project 211 universities.  “Project 985” universities consists of 39 top universities, including Peking University and Tsinghua University.

The above documentary exposes some fraudulent private universities that are out to con money from simple, rural folk. It also shows the hardship experienced by the young people in China, where salaries are low but living expenses can be quite high.

Summary from IMDB:

In ancient times in China, education was the only way out of poverty; in recent times it has been the best way. China’s economic boom and talk of the merits of hard work have created an expectation that to study is to escape poverty. Many Chinese parents see getting a degree as a way of ensuring their children have better, less impoverished lives than their own. But in 1997, the Chinese government privatized universities and education became a commodity. It’s a money-making business where there’s a profit to be made – The University Entrance Exams Day – the day students receive their results – often determines the future of one’s whole life. If you get good results, you get into the state-subsidized universities. If you don’t, there are other universities you can get into but they are more costly, often substandard, and run as lucrative businesses. Some unscrupulous colleges employ marketing techniques to target poor, rural families who are often less streetwise to their tactics. More often than not, these families can’t afford the tuition fees and some end up selling livestock and even their homes to cover the cost of their child’s education. But many colleges can’t live up to their promises and each year, more than two million graduates in China do not find work. For students and families who incurred debt while studying, education is no longer a way out of poverty but a cause of it along with unemployment and despair.

Did you know that PSLE Score Has Decimal Points?

When students receive their PSLE Score, it is in the form of a 3-digit number (e.g. 240, 252, etc.). Few people actually know that it is rounded off, and your actual PSLE score has decimal points!

Source: Straits Times

•First, pupils are ranked according to detailed aggregate scores that extend to decimal points. The No. 1 pupil is posted to the school at the top of his list of six choices. Likewise the second pupil and so on, until there are no more vacancies in the school. The pupil who fails to get his top choice will be posted to the next school on his list. If that school is also full, he will be sent to his third-choice school, and so on.

Hence, if your score is the same as the Cut-off Point (COP), there is a minuscule chance that you may not get in, reason being that of the decimal points. For instance, if the school Cut-off Point is publicized as 250, it may be the case that the last person to be admitted has a score of 250.36. Hence, if your PSLE score is 250.18, you would not be admitted into the school.

Case Study from Kiasuparents:

Online wrote:My girl at 254 could not get MGS O levels (1st choice). 2nd was MGS IP, 3rd NJC IP. Got posted to 4th choice – SCGS IP. The cut-off for MGS O levels is more than 254!

@ Online, don’t panic. It is possible that the cop is 254 and your girl missed by decimal points. I think you can call MGS to find out the COP for O level. If miss by decimal points you can appeal.

In that case, you may appeal and there is a chance that you will be admitted, subject to how many cases the school can handle. See also Appeal from RGS to NYGH (Success).

Good news for Poly students: O Level “not counted” for Uni admissions

Should be good news for most Poly students. It is good to aim for a decent grade for key subjects like E maths and A maths though, as they may still be required for certain subjects in university. For example, a polytechnic student who wishes to apply to a computer science course at NUS would need at least a B3 in O-Level Additional Mathematics.

Source: Channel News Asia

SINGAPORE: Polytechnic graduates applying to the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) from 2020 will no longer have their O-Level grades be considered for admission, except for certain courses.

This comes with the Ministry of Education (MOE) removing an existing requirement for an applicant’s O-Level results to comprise 20 per cent of his University Admissions Score (UAS).

The UAS is a framework adopted by the six autonomous universities to benchmark and rank applicants’ academic abilities for admission to university.

How do students in Singapore from the Express, Normal Academic and Normal Technical streams perceive each other?

Recently, this CNA (Channel News Asia) video is very popular on YouTube. Do check it out. Basically, due to the segregated nature of the education system, GEP, IP (Integrated Programme), Express, Normal Academic and Technical students rarely mix with each other, if at all. Hence, there may be some prejudices and biased views from each side towards the other.

A more in depth official commentary can be found here:

In light of this, the story of From PSLE 124 to PhD A*Star Researcher is very remarkable, on how a student overcame prejudices from society to reach his full potential. Do read it if you haven’t.

Poll: Opinion on Fewer exams for Primary and Lower Secondary Students?

I have added a poll to see what readers think of this new proposal?

Actually mid-year exams and assessments may have a role as a “buffer” to reduce the weightage of the final exam. Removing mid-year exams actually has the effect of transferring more weightage to the final exam, making it more stressful? It boils down to whether people prefer a grading based on 100% weightage for final year exam, or something like 30% mid-year, 20% assessments and 50% final exams. Based on personal experience, many students (including myself) do prefer having a mid-year exam so that their results of the year is not entirely based on the final exams.

Also, for people who are natural procrastinators, who tend to do things at the last minute (possibly around 90% of the human population?), cancelling exams at the Primary 1 and Primary 2 level may end up causing a false sense of security, leading to a frantic panic attack at Primary 3? As a tutor, I receive numerous tutoring requests as late as September/October (for the final year exam), hence I know that numerous students/parents tend to panic at the last minute due to procrastination.

Possibly a worst case scenario that can end up is that the child does not learn well the fundamentals during P1 and P2, and this is undetected by his/her parents due to the absence of exams. Suddenly at P3, the reality is unveiled and it comes as a sudden shock. The P3 student has to catch up with the two years of fundamentals (P1 & P2) quickly before it is too late, as many subjects are cumulative in the sense that P3 topics relies on previous knowledge of P1 and P2 material.

Nonetheless, it is a new policy and it is good to see some changes coming that is intended to reduce the stress of young students. The time “saved” from doing exams can potentially be channeled into learning something new that is not found in the traditional syllabus. Scrapping the class/level position is good, there is no need to be obsessed with being “first” in class at such a young age. Possibly a percentile grade is still necessary for parents to gauge how their child is doing. Keeping PSLE is also good, despite PSLE being stressful it is actually a meritocratic system that theoretically allows a talented student from a poor family to rise to the top.

Source: Channel News Asia

The changes will be implemented in stages, beginning with the removal of all weighted assessments and exams for Primary 1 and 2 students from next year. Weighted assessments, said MOE, can take various modes such as class tests, presentations or group projects.

Currently, Primary 1 students do not have exams, but weighted assessments are conducted throughout the year. Primary 2 students now have weighted assessments throughout the year, as well as a year-end exam.

Secondary 1 students will also no longer have a mid-year examination from next year. From 2020 and 2021, this will also be removed for Primary 3, Primary 5 and Secondary 3 students.


Poll Results: Which JC is the Best?

62 people have voted for the best JC in Singapore. (Poll is at: Which JC is the best in Singapore?

At top place is Nanyang Junior College 12.9% (8 votes), tied with Raffles Institution 12.9% (8 votes).

Visit the poll to see the full results! Some other interesting options voted are as follows:

Other Answer Votes
Definitely not SR 1

Also see: Which Secondary school is the best in Singapore.

Latest SG Education News

Policies In Brief: Tuition fee subsidies

Income eligibility criteria for the Mendaki Tertiary Tuition Fee Subsidy scheme will be revised upwards from August. … Students previously unable to take part in Outward Bound Singapore adventure training or overseas volunteer programmes organised by Youth Corps Singapore may get opportunities …

More Malay students from low-income families to benefit from revision of Tertiary Tuition Fee …

SINGAPORE: The Government will revise the income eligibility criteria for the Tertiary Tuition Fee Subsidy (TTFS) scheme to benefit more Malay students from low-income families. The TTFS scheme, introduced in 1991, covers tuition fees at tertiary institutions and benefits 11,000 students currently.

Subsidies for master’s courses to be removed or reduced for foreign, PR students: Ong Ye Kung

SINGAPORE — From next year, foreign students will no longer receive subsidies for most of the vocation-based master’s degrees and post-graduate … For example, according to the tuition fee schedule for students admitted in the Nanyang Technological University last year, international students pay …

NUS to offer three new degrees in 2018, including a first in veterinary medicine

After that, the students will spend another three years in Melbourne to complete their studies. While they will pay prevailing NUS and University of Melbourne tuition fees during their time in Singapore and Australia, Singaporean students can expect to pay about 15 per cent less in tuition fees for the DVM …

RGS student who had learning disability pays it forward

But her business was unsustainable as her students couldn’t pay tuition fees. I believe in … She then founded HER Planet Earth (HPE) last year to raise funds for underprivileged women affected by climate change and organisations such as Zero Waste SG and World Wide Fund Singapore. Today, the …

Polytechnic courses to be cut by 20%, more Normal (Academic) students to enter poly via through …

If there isn’t any PFP, some students who have the potential to succeed in polytechnic cannot enter the school only because they didn’t do well in their O-Level exams,” said Mr Yap, who has an offer to study information systems at the Singapore Management University (SMU). “Imagine if there’s only a …


More schools to merge in 2019, JCs included

Seems like the declining population is quite serious indeed. Not too long ago there was another merger: 8 JCs to merge (i.e. 4 JCs to close down). “Merge” is just a nice way to say that the affected schools are closing down.

I think at this rate, quite a few jobs may be affected, like paediatrician (children’s doctor), childcare, and even tuition. I think a previous Today article mentioned the impact of declining population on the tuition industry.

The following Primary/Secondary schools will be merged in 2019:

Bendemeer Primary – from merger of Balestier Hill Primary and Bendemeer Primary

Casuarina Primary – from merger of Loyang Primary and Casuarina Primary

Cedar Primary – from merger of MacPherson Primary and Cedar Primary

White Sands Primary – from merger of Coral Primary and White Sands Primary

Damai Primary – from merger of East Coast Primary and Damai Primary

Jing Shan Primary – from merger of Da Qiao Primary and Jing Shan Primary

Junyuan Primary – from merger of East View Primary and Junyuan Primary

The merged secondary schools will be:

East Spring Secondary – from merger of East View Secondary and East Spring Secondary

Jurongville Secondary – from merger of Hong Kah Secondary and Jurongville Secondary

Yuhua Secondary – from merger of Shuqun Secondary and Yuhua Secondary

The merged schools will be located at the schools whose name has been chosen for the combined entities. For example, students from Loyang Primary will thus have to go to the existing Casuarina Primary School from 2019.


PSLE 181 to NUS Medicine (Miracle Story)

Quite an amazing story. The road from PSLE 181 to NUS Medicine is a long and arduous journey. Read how Mr Tan Jun Xiang, 22, managed to overcome the odds to enter the prestigious NUS Medicine faculty.

NUS Medicine is very hard to get in (even perfect scorers can get rejected). His overjoyed father “booked two tables at a restaurant and invited (his) relatives to celebrate.”


SINGAPORE – Mr Tan Jun Xiang, 22, is not your typical medical student who aced all his school examinations.

In fact, he scored only 181 points in the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) and had to go into the longer five-year Normal stream in secondary school.

The polytechnic graduate, who made it to the prestigious medicine faculty at the National University of Singapore (NUS), is among the rare few who do not fit the mold.

When he was younger, he never thought he would go to university – much less the highly competitive Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine at NUS, where only about one in seven applicants get in.

So what sparked his stunning academic turnaround?

A few things: seeing how disappointed his parents were with his results, getting into the secondary school of his choice after an appeal and discovering that he could indeed do well if he put his mind to it.

Read more at Straits Times

Math Books for Christmas

Wishing all readers a joyous Christmas ahead! Here are some ideas for a mathematical Christmas gift for your loved ones who are math lovers:


This Christmas-themed Math book is the perfect gift for your child. According to Amazon, it is rated 4.5/5, and one reviewer even remarked that his 7 year old daughter loved reading it:

“I don’t write reviews normally but I was sitting in bed reading it when my 7 year old daughter snuggled up next to me to read it too – she would not let me turn the pages till she finished which was cute even though I had to wait.” (Amazon)

The Indisputable Existence of Santa Claus: The Mathematics of Christmas


This book is rated very highly on Amazon; it is one of the best sellers in the Math category. It is ideal for homeschoolers, and for Singaporean primary school students who want to learn in advance, during the school holidays. (American Middle School syllabus should be accessible to upper primary Singaporean students) It is written in a very interesting manner as well.

Everything You Need to Ace Math in One Big Fat Notebook: The Complete Middle School Study Guide (Big Fat Notebooks)


This book is extremely popular in the United States. It is a #1 New York Times bestseller, as well as based on true history. “The phenomenal true story of the black female mathematicians at NASA whose calculations helped fuel some of America’s greatest achievements in space. Soon to be a major motion picture starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kirsten Dunst, and Kevin Costner.”

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race

‘Stemaritans’ help breathe life into maths and science

Quite interesting term “Stemaritans”, referring to people who promote STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math).

‘Stemaritans’ help breathe life into maths and science

“Parents think highly of the Singapore education system and like the fact that the bulk of our teachers had taught in mainstream Singapore schools …

Other interesting educational news from Singapore.

‘Titles culture’ in Singapore stifles entrepreneurial streak, say foreign-born businessmen

Mr Staarman, 60, who is from the Netherlands, added that the results-driven, exam-centric approach in Singapore’s education system does not require …
Tech, the road less travelled by girls

In Singapore, the programme has reached more than 6,500 girls in more … This programme comes amid a push by education institutes to get girls …
Skills portal to guide S’poreans from age 11

… and plan their careers”, said the Ministry of Education (MOE), Workforce Singapore (WSG) and SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) in a joint statement.
What the rollout of IHL SkillsFuture Series means for workers and highereducation

Given the longstanding policy of heavy state subsidies for higher education in Singapore, the state has a significant influence in determining the main …
Rising school fees for non-S’poreans force rethink among Johoreans

The Singapore government began sharpening the distinction between citizens and non-citizens in education, healthcare and other major policy areas …
Be less ‘uptight’ about times tables, urges Singaporean maths mastery expert

Dr Yeap Ban Har spent 10 years at the National Institute of Education in Singapore, a country that has played a leading role in the development of the …

He who loves learning is better than he who knows how to learn (Confucius)

From Baidu Baike:

知之者不如好之者,好之者不如乐之者: 对于学习,了解怎么学习的人,不如喜爱学习的人;喜爱学习的人,又不如以学习为乐的人。比喻学习知识或本领,知道它的人不如爱好它的人接受得快,爱好它的人不如以此为乐的人接受得更快。

Translation: He who knows how to learn, is not as good as he who likes learning. He who likes learning, is not as good as he who loves learning. (Confucius)

I guess this applies to mathematics as well. The first step to do well in mathematics is to keep an open mindset and try to get rid of any negative thoughts regarding math. Then, slowly proceed to like and enjoy, and even love math. Only then can one reach his full potential in mathematics.

Like most things, there is a nature and nurture component to this. Some people just naturally love logical things including math. Environment like parents and teachers are very important too, a negative encounter in early childhood can easily give a child a bad impression of learning math.

Learning to Love Math: Teaching Strategies That Change Student Attitudes and Get Results

More expat students catch the ‘tuition bug’ and other Educational News

More expat students catch the ‘tuition bug’

Singapore has gained a reputation for being a “tuition nation”, with surveys … Mr Shaun Lim, a partner at Quintessential Education, said the “kiasu” …
SUSS to weave social impact into all courses

The Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) will expand its … It provides an applied education approach that targets fresh school leavers and …
NTU alumni to receive $1600 credits each to take up courses

SINGAPORE – About 222,000 alumni of Nanyang Technological University (NTU) will receive $1,600 credits each which they can use for a wide …
How can the public learn more about the history of Chinese education inSingapore?

A new book by the National Library looks back on the development of Chinese education in Singapore, through more than a century’s worth of …
How Singapore Encourages Lifelong Learning and Workforce Resilience

SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG), for example, is a statutory board under the Ministry of Education that provides an array of lifelong learning and …

Pierre-Simon de Laplace; French Newton

To increase your interest in mathematics, let me introduce the French mathematician Pierre-Simon de Laplace, also known as the “French Newton” or “Newton of France”. He helped to calculate projectile motion for Napoleon’s artillery. Laplace was also the examiner for Napoleon when he entered military school. Laplace also invented “Laplace transform” and “Laplacian” which will be useful in advanced engineering calculations.

Some quotes:

In September 1785 Laplace subjected Napoleon to a rigorous examination in differential equations and algebra as well as the practical applications of mathematics.
Book on Napoleon

The French Revolution began in 1789. Laplace was fortunately situated for avoiding its dangers, in part because, like Lagrange, his talents were found useful in calculating artillery trajectories. Napoleon esteemed Laplace, and after the Revolution showered him with honors.

Napoleon himself was good at math, he proved a theorem called Napoleon’s Theorem. Napoleon was “close friends with several mathematicians and scientists, including Fourier, Monge, Laplace, Chaptal, Berthollet, and Lagrange.”

Napoleon also made the following quote:

The advancement and perfection of mathematics are intimately connected with the prosperity of the State. — Emperor Napoléon Bonaparte.

Hope the above interesting facts increase your interest in math.

Education and the Blockchain – Should We be Teaching Blockchain in Schools?


It goes without saying that tech progress is moving at a rapid pace. Futurists point to Moore’s law – the idea that tech capabilities double every two years – as evidence for tech’s expansion into nearly every facet of our lives.

Teaching Technology

Education has seen its own dramatic tech advances. Kids can learn math from gamified apps while riding in the backseat of the family minivan. Students can hire an online algebra tutor and learn from anywhere via Skype. Aspiring students can virtually attend free Ivy-league classes (Massive Open Online Course, or MOOC) with millions of other learners of all ages and backgrounds. And NASA now collaborates with high school students in inventive hardware and robotics projects.

The most significant advance in computer-based education isn’t AI or virtual-based learning or even big data – it’s the blockchain. Blockchain has its origins in cryptocurrency, i.e. Bitcoin. The blockchain is essentially a way of managing data transactions – and it’s considered a radical disruption of traditional banking.

Plus, its applications in education – both virtual and classroom-based – have the potential to change everything about schools, from instruction to student achievement.

Exposure Versus Creativity

In the US, three-quarters of children have access to a smartphone. But on its own, that’s not necessarily a good thing. Kids who simply learn to operate a phone, just downloading and playing games, become consumers. The future lies with creators.

US Department of Labor statistics tell us that 2020 will bring with it 1.4 million computer specialist job openings. But American universities produce woefully inadequate numbers of graduates in the right fields – enough to fill a mere 29% of the jobs.

So what’s wrong with the picture? Why the big gap? There are many societal reasons we could point to, but one thing seems to stand out. We’re teaching tech literacy the wrong way.

Textbook-style curriculum may have its place, but not in tech ed. When kids are taught to memorize coding sequences and churn out the same answers to the same textbook questions, there’s no creative spark. No outside-the-box thinking.

In the best way, blockchain is wildly unconventional. To advance the world-changing potential of anti-dogmatic thinking, we need to encourage kids’ inventiveness. If the educational focus is on robot-like achievements rather than innovation, where will we find our climate change-tackling problem solvers?

We’ve labeled a generation of kids “tech-savvy” without giving them the tools to move from consumption to creation. It’s a waste of their brain power to hook kids on the addictive side of tech without pulling back the curtains and showing them the remarkable inner workings. Children and teens want to know how things work.

One solution? Teach tech like art. Coding has more in common with drawing than accounting. Yes, there is a necessary foundation in understanding digital languages and principles – but without encouraging creativity, we’re creating a generation of the same brain. Even gamified learning, if done improperly, can be perilously bland.

Tackling the Education Gap

There are few key components of a sound approach to teaching creative thinking around technology.

  1. Let it be accessible. Kids will shy away from a big learning curve – learning and doing need an intimate relationship.
  2. Remove the achievement roof. Learning platforms and educational approaches which employ standardized tests as the litmus for success – and for what the content can achieve –inhibit creativity. Rather than saying “do this to produce this result,” what if we said, “here are your tools – now, what can you create?” Consider The Lego Movie’s message of the importance of imagination – for future tech innovation, we need makers, not managers.
  3. Embrace a shifting curriculum. In other subjects, things might stand as eternal truths; the Magna Carta will always have been signed in 1215. But in technology education, things move at a blistering pace. A particular tool or lesson may become quickly outdated, so the educational format needs flexibility, just like the subject it teaches.

Blockchain is set to change the world. But as we continue to encounter environmental and societal problems, we need amazing minds to solve them. Revolutionizing how we teach technology education might be the answer we didn’t know we needed.

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Son of taxi driver among this year’s President’s Scholars


Mr Lee Tat Wei lives in a four-room flat in Woodlands. He and his older brother went to neighbourhood schools. His father is a taxi driver and his mother works as a part- time sales assistant.

Despite his humble background, the 19-year-old said he has never felt shortchanged. “My parents gave me an environment that money couldn’t buy. They never pressured me to get straight As. They taught me to live in the moment,” said the Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) graduate who had a perfect score of 45 for his International Baccalaureate diploma exams.

Mr Lee, who is one of the five recipients of the President’s Scholarship this year, will be going to read liberal arts at Yale University.

SG Education News: More places for Medicine Students

Good news for those aspiring to be medical doctors.

Med school places to rise to 500 by next year

The National University of Singapore (NUS) has had more than 2,000 top students fight for the 300 spaces in its Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine …

Other top Education news:

Hong Kong, UAE, Singapore Priciest Places for Education

In Singapore, the government subsidizes schooling costs for locals and has doubled its education budget since 2005 as part of a plan to build the …

New NTU president has history of ties with Singapore

New NTU president has history of ties with Singapore … Council and the International Academic Advisory Panel of Singapore’s Ministry of Education.

Building a `Smart Nation’ in Singapore Doesn’t Come Cheap

Schooling isn’t cheap in Singapore: not just for citizens, but for the government too. The city state boasts one of the best education systems in the world …

How robots are teaching Singapore’s kids

In Singapore, admired globally for its education system, authorities are trialling the use of robotic aides to teachers in kindergartens. Two humanoid …

Nanyang Girls NYGH starts school later at 8.15am

Very good idea by NYGH. Sleep is important for students.

SINGAPORE: For almost a year now, Nanyang Girls High (NYGH) students have been starting school at 8.15am – a good 45 minutes later than most secondary schools.

And the results have been telling.

The school in Bukit Timah has been taking part in ground-breaking sleep studies conducted by Duke-NUS Medical School researchers – whose studies have shown that 80 per cent of teens here don’t get enough sleep, which affects their health, grades and cognitive abilities.

It was what the teachers of NYGH had been suspecting all along.

Mrs Ho-Sam Choon Juen, NYGH dean of student systems and info management, said: “For a long time, we’d known that our girls were not sleeping enough because of their academic and extra-curricular demands.

8 JCs to merge (i.e. 4 JCs to close down)

The latest education news in Singapore is that 4 pairs of JCs to merge as student numbers shrink; 14 primary and 6 secondary schools also affected.

The effect on the primary and secondary schools is not that significant, due to the large number of primary and secondary schools. However, there are only around 20 JCs in Singapore, the effect is quite big for JCs.

8 JCs merging is just a nice way of saying 4 JCs to be shut down permanently. RIP Serangoon, Tampines, Innova and Jurong JCs.

The most affected would be O level students in the next 5 years. Yes, there is declining birthrate but that is gradual. So for the next 5 years, there is approximately the same number of students competing for 4 less JCs.

So by “Demand and Supply” logic, we have:
– similar demand for JCs (approx. same number of students in the next 5 years)
– lower supply of JCs (due to the 4 axed JCs)

By Economic Theory: If supply decreases and demand is unchanged, then it leads to a higher equilibrium price.

Hence the logical conclusion is that the “price” will rise, that is, cutoff points for JCs may become lower. To add on to that, the 4 axed JCs cater mainly to the 13-20 pointers. So students falling in that L1R5 range will be especially affected.

Also check out: Which JC is good?

Analysis: 97 marks not enough for Higher Chinese cut-off point for Pri 1 pupils

Quite tough to be a primary school kid nowadays, even 97 marks is not enough to be admitted for Higher Chinese classes.

From experience, the main underlying reasons behind this scenario could be:

  • Due to intensive tuition starting from preschool, students enter primary 1 already knowing primary 3 syllabus, so everyone is scoring 100/100. So top 25% percentile mark becomes 99/100.
  • Lack of manpower (Chinese teachers). It is well-known that Singaporeans are not very interested in general in pursuing the career of Mother Tongue teacher (look at the cut-off points of Chinese studies in universities). So only enough manpower for limited number of Higher Chinese classes.
  • Kiasu principals / HODs who want to “quality-control” those taking Higher Chinese to boost the distinction rate of the cohort (a common but unethical tactic to improve the cohort’s performance in national exams is to force those who are not doing well to drop the subject)
  • Lastly, it is not known if 97 is the overall mark, or just one of the marks in the continual assessment. It is possible to score 97 in one test, but the average can be much lower.

This is quite a serious issue as Chinese is no longer a minor/unimportant subject, like in the past it was. In fact, under the new PSLE scoring system, Chinese is one of the major game-changing core components, a severe Achilles’ heel for those in English-speaking families. Getting proficient in Chinese from an early age is a must for the new PSLE system, so no doubt many parents are anxious about Higher Chinese.

Parents of some children in a well-known primary school have complained about the selection process for Higher Chinese.

St Hilda’s Primary pupils are routed into Higher Chinese classes in Primary 2 based on continual assessment test results in Primary 1.

What upset the parents was that pupils who scored as high as 97 marks in Chinese last year were told that they had failed to make the cut for Higher Chinese.

Read more at:

98-Year-Old NASA Mathematician Katherine Johnson: ‘If You Like What You’re Doing, You Will Do Well’


Despite her age, Johnson isn’t slowing down anytime soon.

“I like to learn,” she says. “That’s an art and a science. I’m always interested in learning something new.”

As a young girl she’d stop by the library on her home way in the evening and would pick up a book.

“I finally persuaded them to let me look at two books,” she recalls. “I could have read more than that in one night if they had let me.”

Johnson’s life was the inspiration for a nonfiction book titled Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, which is now being turned into a major motion picture coming due theaters this December. (Empire star Taraji P. Henson will play Johnson.)

Johnson, who was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2015,  thinks she was able to succeed because she always loved what she did. It’s one piece of advice she has for young girls today.

“Find out what her dream is,” she says, “and work at it because if you like what you’re doing, you will do well.”

Johnson also taught her daughters a few life lessons.

“Don’t accept failure,” says Joylette Goble, who says she has always been in awe of her mother. “If there is a job to be done, you can do it and do it until you finish.”

She adds: “Be aware of people and help them when you can.”

Johnson’s other daughter, Katherine Goble Moore, says her mother has always been her role model.

“I will always be grateful for her,” she says.

Why Math Education in the U.S. Doesn’t Add Up

The U.S. has some of the best universities in Math (think Harvard, Princeton, MIT), however the state of high school math is subpar and well below other developed nations. The main reason, according to this article, is the curriculum that focuses more on memorization and rote learning rather than understanding.

This book by Jo Boaler (Stanford Professor) sums up what can be done by parents to improve their child’s mathematical skills.

Another way is to consider studying Singapore Math, as Singapore is well known for being good at high school / elementary school math.



In December the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) will announce the latest results from the tests it administers every three years to hundreds of thousands of 15-year-olds around the world. In the last round, the U.S. posted average scores in reading and science but performed well below other developed nations in math, ranking 36 out of 65 countries.

We do not expect this year’s results to be much different. Our nation’s scores have been consistently lackluster. Fortunately, though, the 2012 exam collected a unique set of data on how the world’s students think about math. The insights from that study, combined with important new findings in brain science, reveal a clear strategy to help the U.S. catch up.

The PISA 2012 assessment questioned not only students’ knowledge of mathematics but also their approach to the subject, and their responses reflected three distinct learning styles. Some students relied predominantly on memorization. They indicated that they grasp new topics in math by repeating problems over and over and trying to learn methods “by heart.” Other students tackled new concepts more thoughtfully, saying they tried to relate them to those they already had mastered. A third group followed a so-called self-monitoring approach: they routinely evaluated their own understanding and focused their attention on concepts they had not yet learned.

In every country, the memorizers turned out to be the lowest achievers, and countries with high numbers of them—the U.S. was in the top third—also had the highest proportion of teens doing poorly on the PISA math assessment. Further analysis showed that memorizers were approximately half a year behind students who used relational and self-monitoring strategies. In no country were memorizers in the highest-achieving group, and in some high-achieving economies, the differences between memorizers and other students were substantial. In France and Japan, for example, pupils who combined self-monitoring and relational strategies outscored students using memorization by more than a year’s worth of schooling.

Why We Should Stop Grading Students on a Curve

A very nice article against the philosophy of the bell curve, which is a prominent feature of examinations all over the world, including Singapore. I am sure that when Gauss invented the bell curve, he didn’t intend it to be used for examinations!



The goal is to fight grade inflation, but the forced curve suffers from two serious flaws. One: It arbitrarily limits the number of students who can excel. If your forced curve allows for only seven A’s, but 10 students have mastered the material, three of them will be unfairly punished. (I’ve found a huge variation in overall performance among the classes I teach.)

The more important argument against grade curves is that they create an atmosphere that’s toxic by pitting students against one another. At best, it creates a hypercompetitive culture, and at worst, it sends students the message that the world is a zero-sum game: Your success means my failure.

Exhibit B: I spent a decade studying the careers of “takers,” who aim to come out ahead, and “givers,” who enjoy helping others. In the short run, across jobs in engineering, medicine and sales, the takers were more successful. But as months turned into years, the givers consistently achieved better results.

The results: Their average scores were 2 percent higher than the previous year’s, and not because of the bonus points. We’ve long knownthat one of the best ways to learn something is to teach it. In fact, evidence suggests that this is one of the reasons that firstborns tend to slightly outperform younger siblings on grades and intelligence tests: Firstborns benefit from educating their younger siblings. The psychologists Robert Zajonc and Patricia Mullally noted in a review of the evidence that “the teacher gains more than the learner in the process of teaching.

Is the highest-ranked school the right one for your child? (Singapore)

Sometimes, the highest-ranked school may not be the right school for every child. This issue is also discussed in Malcolm Gladwell’s book David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants.


Q Is the highest-ranked school the right school for my child?

A As a Singaporean economist working on issues in education, I am often asked by parents to recommend the best school for their children. Invariably, what such parents were really asking me was to identify a highly ranked school that their child had a decent chance of getting into.

But this raises a dilemma – is a highly ranked school really the most suitable school for a child?

Adults may recall school environments as idyllic places, but we forget that classrooms have now become arenas where fierce competition takes place among classmates.

In today’s schools, students take part in academic tournaments where better test results, compared to those of their peers, bring greater opportunities for scholarships and allow access to better schools. Those who do not excel in these tournaments may lose their incentive to compete and ultimately drop out of the academic race altogether.

This is where my work provides some guidelines for parents weighing the pros and cons of being in a more competitive school.

Last year, a fellow researcher, Mr Yoshio Kamijo, and I conducted a two-day experiment where we first tested the maths ability of 132 Secondary 2 students in a school in Shandong, China, through maths pre-tests on the first day.

Afterwards, we categorised the performance of our students into four groups, based on those pre-tests: low maths ability, average maths ability, high maths ability and a mixed group with low-, average- and high-ability students in one class.

We were interested in comparing the performance of students in a mixed class with those in a class with similar-ability students.

Our experiment aimed to see how students in each class performed in another maths test given on the second day, under a competitive environment where winners received rewards and losers were given punishments.

The point of the exercise was to investigate whether being grouped with similar- or dissimilar-ability students mattered to students of different abilities.

Just like a scientific experiment, by controlling for their pre-ability, their performance in our competition captured how such students responded to the knowledge of competing against similar or weaker/stronger opponents.

Our final results were not that surprising. We compared the results of students in the mixed class with similar-ability peers.

We found that those in the mixed class had different reactions towards their competitors depending on their ability level: the low-ability students were discouraged and performed poorly, the middle-ability students were more motivated and did better in a mixed class than in a class with similar-ability students, while for the high-ability students, no real difference was seen.

The difference in performance was significant.


Switch to holistic assessment may add pressure on students

Government’s plan to change current methods of assessment to reduce emphasis on academic achievement may be undermined by the fact that Singaporeans will adapt to compete on whatever terms they are given

The winds of change are blowing hard against the Singaporean obsession with examination results that deprives the young of their childhood and propagates despair in society’s pressure-cooker environment.

In April, the Ministry of Education (MOE) announced that the aggregate score for the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) will be scrapped, and replaced with wider scoring bands from 2021. This will be similar to grading at O and A levels.

The current system involves working out a child’s aggregate T-score based on component subject scores – English, Mother Tongue, mathematics and science – weighted against the range of scores within each cohort.

Most of all, I wonder how fair and meritocratic it is for an educational system to systematically reward those who have spent $50,000 pursuing music as a “talent” from age four, when the educational system itself offers students no violins, no violin teachers, and no access to the ABRSM (Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music) grading certificates schools ask for.

Read more at:

Study: Kids from affluent families more likely in IP, GEP schools


Children from higher socio-economic backgrounds are more likely to attend Integrated Programme (IP) secondary schools and their affiliated primary schools, as well as those that offer the Gifted Education Programme (GEP). – Straits Times

Another related news is Students in IP schools more confident of getting at least a university degree, also published by the Straits Times.

It is like a perpetual virtuous cycle: GEP/IP -> University -> Affluent -> GEP/IP (next generation) -> …, no wonder tuition is so popular in Singapore as no doubt every parent wants their child to get into the virtuous cycle above.

More research needs to be done on how lower-income families can be helped for their children to reach their fullest potential.

The ideal Singapore JC subject combination for applying to Medicine

Why Additional Maths (A Maths) is important for entering Medicine:

Pathway: A Maths (O Level) –> H2 Maths (A Level) –> NUS Medicine


Quote: While NUS and NTU Medicine does not (officially) require H2 Maths (ie. ‘A’ level Maths), some other (overseas) Medical schools might. And not having H2 Maths might (unofficially) disadvantage your chances, even for NUS and NTU.

Therefore (assuming you intend to fight all the way for your ambition), your safest bet would be to (fight for the opportunity) to take both H2 Bio and H2 Math. The ideal Singapore JC subject combination for applying to Medicine (in any University) is :

H2 Chemistry, H2 Biology, H2 Mathematics


Quote: pre-requisites for nus medicine will be H2 Chem and H2 bio or physics.

as for what’s best,
H2 math is almost a must since without it you’ll be ruling out a lot of ‘back-up courses’

Singapore math


Singapore math (or Singapore maths in British English[1]) is a teaching method based on the national math curriculum used for kindergarten through sixth grade in Singapore.[2][3] It involves teaching students to learn and master fewer mathematical concepts at greater detail as well as having them learn these concepts using a three-step learning process.[2][3] The three steps are concrete, pictorial, and abstract. In the concrete step, students engage in hands-on learning experiences using concrete objects such as chips, dice, or paper clips.[4] This is followed by drawing pictorial representations of mathematical concepts. Students then solve mathematical problems in an abstract way by using numbers and symbols.[5]

The development of Singapore math began in the 1980s when the country’s Ministry of Education developed its own mathematics textbooks that focused on problem solving and heuristic model drawing.[3][6] Outside Singapore, these textbooks were adopted by several schools in the the United States (U.S.) and in other countries such as Canada, Israel, and the United Kingdom.[7][1][8] Early adopters of these textbooks in the U.S. included parents interested in homeschooling as well as a limited number of schools.[3] These textbooks became more popular since the release of scores from the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), which showed Singapore at the top of the world three times in fourth and eighth grade mathematics.[9] U.S. editions of these textbooks have since been adopted by a large number of school districts as well as charter and private schools.[3]

Read more at:

The bar model can be drawn as a comparison model to compare two bars of unequal lengths, which can then be used to solve a subtraction problem.


On the road to make math fun: An army major who quit to become a mathematics teacher


On the road to make math fun

Madanlal Baldevraj Ghai during the city leg of his tour. Picture by Sayantan Ghosh

An army major who quit to become a mathematics teacher has embarked on a self-funded tour of the country to promote the subject.

Madanlal Baldevraj Ghai, 70, stayed in a dormitory at Howrah station to keep costs down during the three days he spent in Calcutta recently, meeting officials of the primary and secondary board and the school education department to offer suggestions on how to make the study of mathematics more interesting.

“India has produced brilliant mathematicians not just in the Vedic and medieval ages but also in modern times. Unfortunately, for quite a few years, not many students have been pursuing the subject at the higher level, which has resulted in a decline in the number of top-quality mathematicians,” the former teacher at PMN College in Rajpura, Punjab, told Metro.

“We, the elderly mathematics teachers, need to reach out to students and guardians in every corner of the country to dispel the misconception that mathematics is dry and boring,” added Ghai, who has an MPhil in the subject and is pursuing his PhD at Punjabi University, Patiala.

His 50-day tour was also prompted by the Prime Minister declaring 2012 as the year of mathematics as a tribute to Srinivasa Ramanujan, the autodidact mathematician who died in 1920 at the age of 32.

Read more at:

Maths tutoring adds up for students: OECD study (Singapore PISA tuition effect)


Many of the world’s most mathematically gifted teenagers come from countries with the most lucrative tutoring industries.

Figures released this week show tutoring in Asia’s powerhouses is widespread, with participation rates more than double those  in Australia, though the extent to which their success is a result of a punishing study schedule is unclear.

In test results released by the OECD, 15-year-olds from Shanghai  topped the mathematics rankings, performing at a level equivalent to three years ahead of students in Australia.
Read more:

Math is at the heart of physics. (O Level Maths and Physics Tips)


Studying and practising Mathematics is one of the most useful things an O level student can do.

Not only are the two Maths (E Maths and A Maths) highly intertwined, studying Maths can actually help the students’ Physics too. There are some topics like Vectors and Kinematics in Physics that are also present in Mathematics.

Math is at the heart of physics. So the better your math, the better you’ll do in physics.

A good working knowledge of algebra and trigonometry is needed for Physics.

Mnemosyne with a mathematical formula.
Mnemosyne with a mathematical formula. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mathematics is not a spectator sport (How to study Maths for Humanities students)

Studying Mathematics is totally different from studying Humanities, this is the reason why humanities students often don’t do well in maths. But with the right studying techniques (i.e. practising doing mathematics), humanities students can be very good at maths. Together with their creativity and good memory, humanities students have the potential to achieve the top grades in maths exams.

I have taught Pure Literature students and found that they definitely have the potential to do well in Maths once they learn the correct method of mathematical studying and thinking, and how to approach solving Maths questions.

One of the top mathematical physicists, Edward Witten, majored in history and minored in linguistics! (

Mathematics is not a spectator sport


Even if you understand every word in lecture and in the textbook, the only way to really learn mathematics is by doing mathematics.  Sometimes this means doing even more than the assigned problems.  (See “time committment” above.)  This is how to avoid the common pitfall of “understanding everything in class but blanking out on the exams.

I realize this isn’t welcome advice, and I admit that I haven’t always followed it myself.  But in years of teaching (and 20+ years of learning) mathematics I haven’t found any shortcut.

Why are China students so good at Math & Sciences?



I’m sure many secondary school/Junior College students have know some China scholars in your schools scoring results that are seemingly impossible to reach (90+ for H2 Maths etc.) But when asked what’s their secret to scoring so well, they said they just study & memorize the same way any other student would do before exams. 

I heard from my seniors that China scholars usually study till 2 am every night, but I don’t buy into that. I think they’re just exaggerated rumors to explain their excellent grades. Some of my friends say that China’s education gave them really solid foundation, such that they can grasp concepts much faster than the rest.  

Anybody know their secret to doing so well?


It seems like the secret of the China scholars is “practice makes perfect”!

The Time magazine even recommends Over-Practicing (

Over-Practicing Makes Perfect

The brain can get by on less energy when you overlearn a task
Read more: Over-Practicing Makes Perfect |

Math, Science, Reading Scores Show U.S. Schools Slipping Behind


Math, Science, Reading Scores Show U.S. Schools Slipping Behind

Posted: December 10, 2010 PRINTER FRIENDLY VERSION: PDF

The United States received a stark wake-up call this week with the release of international test results showing students in other countries are surpassing American students when it comes to math, science and reading. China and Australia outperformed the U.S. in each of the three subject areas tested.

The results of a major international education assessment show that American students are lagging behind many other countries in crucial skills like reading, math and science.

“The United States came in 23rd or 24th in most subjects. We can quibble, or we can face the brutal truth that we’re being out-educated,” said U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

Test compares U.S. to other countries

The PISA tests how advanced students are in science, math and reading compared to their peers around the world.

The test, known as the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), directly assesses how prepared teenagers are in math, science and reading compared to their peers in other countries.
The test is translated into each country’s language, and officials from the participating countries are able to review questions before students take the exam to make sure each test is fair and unbiased.

In the U.S., the participating schools and students are randomly selected. On average, about 4,500 students are tested in each of the participating countries.

China and Finland lead the way

Chinese and Finnish students scored highest on the PISA test.

Each PISA subject area is scored on a scale where 500 points is the average. The results announced this week show many countries outperforming the U.S. Here’s a sample:

Math: China 600, Germany 513, United States 487 (31st place)

Reading: China 556, Korea 539, United States 500 (17th place)

Science: China 575, Finland 554, United States 502 (23rd place)

The results of a major international education assessment show that  American students are lagging behind many other countries in crucial skills like reading, math and science.

Continue reading at

Study Tips from MIT


Tooling and Studying: Effective Breaks

Even as an MIT student, you can’t study all the time. In fact, we learn better by switching gears frequently. Here are some tips for breaking up your study time effectively.

  • Approach the same material in several different ways. This increases learning by using different brain pathways. Read a textbook section, aloud if possible, then review your lecture notes on the same concept. Write a one-sentence summary of a chapter or a set of questions to test your understanding. Then move on to the next textbook section.
  • Study in blocks of time. Generally, studying in one-hour blocks is most effective (50 minutes of study with a ten-minute break). Shorter periods can be fine for studying notes and memorizing materials, but longer periods are needed for problem-solving tasks, psets, and writing papers.
  • Break down large projects (papers, psets, research) into smaller tasks. The Assignment Timeline can help with this. Check off each task on your to-do list as you finish it, then take a well-earned break.
  • Plan regular breaks. When building a schedule for the term, srategically add several regular breaks between classes and in the evenings. Take 20-30 minutes; never work through these scheduled breaks. Our minds need an occasional rest in order to stay alert and productive, and you can look forward to a reward as you study. If your living group has a 10 pm study break, or you have a circle of friends that likes to go out for ice cream together at 7 on Wednesdays, put that on your schedule. These small, brief gatherings will become more welcome as the term intensifies.
  • Get up and move. Research shows that sitting for more than three hours a day can shorten your life by up to two years. At least every hour, stand up, stretch, do some yoga or jumping jacks, or take a walk, and breathe deeply.
  • Schedule meals to relax and unwind with friends; don’t just inhale food while tooling.
  • Turn off your phone while studying and on when you take a break. You may think you are multitasking when you text someone while reading or doing problems, but often the reverse is true. An assignment done while texting or following tweets will likely take two or three times longer and not turn out as well.
  • If you tend to lose track of time while using your phone or computer, schedule fixed times for Facebook and other fun things, and set an alarm to remind you of the end of that period.

O Level E Maths and A Maths Tuition @ Bishan by Patient Tutor, NUS 1st Class Honours, Ex-RI (GEP)

Maths Tuition @ Bishan by Patient Tutor, NUS 1st Class Honours, Ex-RI (GEP)

Location: Block 230 Bishan Street 23 #B1-35 S(570230)

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*Small Group Maths Tuition available in 2014 — Registration/enquiries open now*


Patient and Dedicated Maths Tutor available for Maths Tuition
(NUS Maths Major 1st Class Honours, Dean’s List, RI Alumni)

Subjects for tuition:
•O level (Secondary): E Maths, A Maths

Tutor is patient, experienced and qualified. (from Raffles Institution (GEP), NUS Mathematics Dean’s List)

Please email us at for more details.


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Jurong West Secondary vice-principal takes issue with ‘every school is a good school’ ideal


By | Yahoo Newsroom 

Jurong West Secondary vice-principal takes issue with ‘every school is a good school’ ideal. (Screengrab of Google Maps)

“How many of our leaders and top officers who say that every school is a good school put their children in ordinary schools near their home? (Only) until they actually do so are parents going to buy (it).”

Those were the exact words of Jurong West Secondary School (JWSS) vice-principal Pushparani Nadarajah, who was responding to speakers and teachers’ discussions of making every school a good one at the inaugural AsiaEducationExpo (AEX) 2013, according to a report by The Straits Times.

During the first panel discussion, which was attended by about 200 participants, several educators expressed hope that parents would recognise the efforts of all schools to bring out the best in students.

The neighbourhood school’s vice principal’s startling remark drew applause from those who attended the event.

A 37-year-old mother, who has a primary-school-going child and another  child attending pre-school, who did not want to be named, told Yahoo Singapore she agrees with the vice-principal’s comments.

“Look at the ministers, most of them are from good schools, like SJI and Hwa Chong,” she said.

Continue reading at–ideal-103224519.html

Performing well in math is generally a result of hard work, not innate skill


Recently, I read this article in The Atlantic about the myth of being innately “bad at math,” and how performing well in math is generally a result of hard work, not innate skill. By all accounts, I should have known this, but it only took that one semester to break down years of confidence in my aptitude. In the article, the author notes several patterns we see that reinforce this myth. The one that resonated most with me was as follows:

“The well-prepared kids, not realizing that the B students were simply unprepared, assume that they are ‘math people,’ and work hard in the future, cementing their advantage.”

And the B students (or in my case D student), well, they assume it’s about skill level and from that point forward it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

My mentor convinced me to apply to business school, and when he asked why I wouldn’t apply to Wharton, I said, “too quantitative.” I was scared. But he convinced me to apply, and after a crash course in Calculus, I learned that if I worked hard enough, indeed I could have success… even when my classmates were so-called quant jocks.

For me, it worked out, but for millions of kids in our education system, the ending isn’t so happy. Instead, parents determine at a very young age that a child has or does not have math skills. And, I would argue, they — we — do the same with reading. We decide that it’s one or the other, left or right brain. Instead, we can acknowledge our kids’ struggles with a particular subject, while continuing to encourage and remind them that a consistent effort can make a tremendous difference, but it takes perseverance.

What do I wish my teacher had done? I wish he had told me that I could do everything my classmates were doing, but I lacked the preparation before I ever stepped foot in his classroom.  If only he had instilled that confidence in me, that simple knowing that I could do better, who knows what else I might have tackled coming out of high school.

Study Tips for Mathematics

Here are some useful study tips for Mathematics. The key to acing Maths is to understand that practice is key for Mathematics!

Sincerely hope these tips help.

Please do not study Maths like studying History, Literature or Geography, the study method for Maths is totally different and opposite from studying Humanities. Reading a Maths textbook without practicing is not very helpful at all.

Once a student understands the basic theory of a certain topic (usually just one or two pages of information), he or she can move on to practicing actual questions immediately. While practicing, the student will then learn more and more knowledge and question-answering strategies for that Maths topic.

Even if you already know how to do a question, it is useful to practice it to improve on speed and accuracy.

The study strategy for Maths and Physics are kind of similar, hence usually you will find that students who are good in Maths will also be good in Physics, and vice versa.

Students from China usually do very well in Maths exams because they understand the strategy for studying Maths (which works very well up till JC level), namely a lot of practice with understanding. The strategy is called “题海战术” in Chinese, which means “immersing oneself in a sea of questions”.

Source for diagram below: Email from JobsCentral BrightMinds

maths mindmap

The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos (Hardcover)

The secret to being good at Maths (or any other subject) is to like it and enjoy it. This would make working hard and practicing Maths easier and more efficient. 2 hours can easily fly past while doing Maths if one is interested in it.

This is a storybook (suitable for young kids) about “The Boy Who Loved Math”, a true story about the Mathematician Paul Erdos.

The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos

Most people think of mathematicians as solitary, working away in isolation. And, it’s true, many of them do. But Paul Erdos never followed the usual path. At the age of four, he could ask you when you were born and then calculate the number of seconds you had been alive in his head. But he didn’t learn to butter his own bread until he turned twenty. Instead, he traveled around the world, from one mathematician to the next, collaborating on an astonishing number of publications. With a simple, lyrical text and richly layered illustrations, this is a beautiful introduction to the world of math and a fascinating look at the unique character traits that made “Uncle Paul” a great man.

In China, all parents know that maths is the number one subject in schools


‘Above all, it is a cultural thing.” Professor Lianghuo Fan is reflecting on the differences he has noticed between maths education in China and Singapore, where he lived and taught for 40 years, and in Britain, where he is now based. “In China, all parents know that maths is the number one subject in schools, and they expect that in a modern society everyone must be comfortable with maths, even if that means they have to work hard at it.“That attitude is passed on to their children. But here in Britain, you can feel students’ attitude about mathematics is different. They feel all right if they say they don’t like mathematics.”

Professor Fan is not alone in highlighting this national phobia of ours about maths. The government has this week shown itself determined to tackle the problem head on with the unveiling of a new “back-to-basics” primary school maths curriculum, with a renewed emphasis on times-tables, mental arithmetic, fractions and rote learning.

Most people over 40 will see the proposals as a return to the classroom practice of their childhood – but in its introductory remarks the Department for Education claimed inspiration from Asian model that Professor Fan knows so well: “I never heard a child in China or Singapore say that they don’t like maths’,” he stresses, “without a sense of embarrassment.”

We are sitting in a café near Southampton University – where 50-year-old Professor Fan has been head of the Mathematics and Science Education Research Centre since 2010 – as we try to decide if anything lies behind the popular stereotype that Asian children are “naturally” better at maths than those in the West. It is, for example, in the core storyline of Safe, the recent Hollywood blockbuster, starring Jason Statham. An 11-year-old girl, Mei (played by Chinese-born actress Catherine Chan), is a maths prodigy who can decode number sequences at a glance – and therefore has to be protected from the baddies.

Math Mark