Very frequently, parents and students ask me if students would be penalized if they did not follow a certain “template” type answer taught in schools.

As an example, here is a question posted to me.

Posted by Anonymous 28 Mar 2008 PM 01:28 :

Mr Song

Wish to seek your opinion on the use of equivalent ratio to solve

this problem. This method may be more suitable for weaker students , but it’s

longer

Before After

B:G B:G

5:3 5:4

25:15 30:24As there is an

increase of 5 boys and 9 girls

30-25 =5 boys

24-15 =9 girls

At first

there are 15 girls

Will students be penalised if they use this method.

The Maths Question that is referred to can found here: http://road-to-psle.blogspot.com/2008/01/mgs-paya-lebar-pri-school-p6-math-ca1_21.html

Before I proceed to comment whether a student will be penalized, let me share with you my personal experience, when I was a teacher in school. I have taught China Nationals in schools and they worked out their sums very differently. Usually they score 100%. So, do I penalize them for using a different way of working their sums?

Mathematically, they are correct. The only difference is that most Singapore students use a step-by-step approach.

If the working is mathematically correct, I mark them correct. I don’t penalize them. After all, how can you wrong a working and the answer if it is right?

However, as much as I am tempted to tell students and parents that it is OK to use their own method, provided the working is mathematically correct, I would not say it publicly. The reason is that I do not want to undo what the teachers in schools have taught their students.

The “standard template” working taught in schools works brilliantly for the average and weaker students. Those who are strong in Maths will of course be able to see that the question can be approached in different ways.

If I were to give an opinion in a public blog, that it is OK to use a method other than the “standard template” working, I may be undoing all the hard work teachers in schools are doing to help the average and weaker students.

All I can say is that when I was teaching and marking exam papers in schools, I have never penalized students who gave me mathematically correct working that leads to a mathematically correct answer. However, I have stopped teaching in schools since 2002 and that of course, means that I have also stopped marking exam papers.

**Since I will not be the one who will be marking exam papers, I may actually be the wrong person to ask if a student would be penalized, if he used a non-standard template working.**

The best person to ask is still your own teacher.

I hope that answers the question posted by “Anonymous”.