The Practicle Way to Get Good at Math

Math Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

We know many of you must be thinking…how many times can one talk about getting good at Math? To answer that we’ve decided to reiterate some facts which have already been brought up in our previous blogs:

#1 Math is the most searched for subject for 3 out of 4 markets that Tueetor’s in. This includes Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. And Math is the most searched for subject across ALL levels – from primary, secondary to pre-tertiary;

#2 We have the most number of Math trainers (for the same 3 markets), than for any other subject; and

#3 Math (at *85.2%) is the worst performing subject amongst all 4 subjects at PSLE. And this is behind Science, the 3rd best performing subject (at 90.6%) with English at second and the best-performing subject being Mother Tongue. (*Where 85.2% of the total PSLE cohort of 2016 scored at least a grade C in PSLE Math exam. Data was taken from Ministry of Education’s Education Statistic Digest 2017 edition.)

So to quote Tueetor Premium Partner Practicle, getting good at Math is easier than you think. And whilst there are many ways out in the open market which requires lots of practice. Practicle’s way is not only logical, data-driven and precise, but is also 21st century. The following article is reproduced with permission from Practicle.sg.

Are You Good At Math?

Contrary to popular belief, this is actually a really bad question to ask. Instead, we should be asking our kids: “Are you good at Math yet?”

Many people feel that they are born to be bad at Math, and are just not able to get better at the subject, but that is simply not true. Studies have shown that getting good at Math is just a matter of diligent and consistent work. In fact, the phrase “Practice makes Perfect” is arguably more suited to Math then most other subjects. Research has shown that motivation and study skills play a much more important role in developing Mathematical competence levels, as compared to IQ.

Simply said, whoever is willing to put in effort in learning Math the right way, will end up being much better in Math, regardless of who they are.

Who Should Put in the Effort to Be Good At Math?

Looking back just a little, do you remember the days without Uber/Grab when you had to get somewhere fast, and you stood up to 30 minutes in the hot sun, trying to flag a cab?

Now, we have cars that drive themselves, and even rockets that can make a trip to space and land back on Earth, upright, by themselves. Tomorrow, we will have drones delivering your Chilli Crabs, and our refrigerators will be ordering our eggs for us.

This newfound smartness of the world is inevitably built upon computer programming, and computer programming is hopelessly reliant on Math. Much of programming, such as algorithms and data structures, are fundamentally Math. If you can solve Math problems using Heuristics, you might become a good problem solver and programmer in future! In fact, famed computer scientist Edsger W. Dijkstra thinks that programming is math. And just 5 days ago, Bill Gates shared that “everyone could benefit” from learning programming. Without a doubt, Math is like a pillar to our future.

But, how does one get good at Math?

How to Get Good At Math?

In fact, most parents already know better. Every corner you turn in Singapore, you see assessment books and top school papers. It is rare to find a fellow Singaporean who has not worked on one of those in their lives.

Practicing on those are good, but there are actually 2 main problems that they are unable to solve. 

1. How efficient are your practices?  

If you truly believe that your child is unique, then why are they practicing the same set of questions as everyone else? Ask any teacher in Singapore, and they will tell you that in their years of teaching, they would never have seen a single test whereby all the students scored the same marks for every question and had the same total score. Neither have we.

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A student’s performance BEFORE and AFTER enrolling in Practicle. Pictures courtesy of Practicle.sg.

If you were bad at Chinese, what would you do to improve? If you were good at English, what do you do to become even better?

A good teacher will analyze every single students’ ability in class, and give weaker students easier problems for practice, and stronger students harder problems to stretch them. A great teacher will analyze this right down to the individual Topics, Skills, Concepts, and Heuristics.

If a teacher, tutor, or parent does not have the time to do that, then a system that automatically compiles performance information through analytics and suggests the right questions to practice will help them greatly.

Students are extremely busy nowadays, and they cannot afford to be doing every single question on their assessment book which is written for the masses. By using 100% of their time on practicing the right questions that are suited at their own levels of proficiency, the efficiency of getting good at Math increases up to 10x.

Can you imagine your family doctor giving out standard sets of medicine? Like medicine, practice should be personalized to every individual. They weren’t then, because it wasn’t possible. But in the age of Grab and Facebook, we should not be flagging cabs on the road or practicing on paper anymore.

How to get more out of the same questions by doing it digitally

By doing the same questions on our platform, you let our proprietary RadioActive Engine™ (RAE) track your child’s submitted answers and timings, which compares it with our huge amount of data available, and determine a performance score for every question done. This lets our RAE know how well your child is able to apply skills, concepts or heuristics that are related to that question. As more questions are done, the RAE will build a rich and intricate picture of your child’s abilities, and use that to suggest appropriate questions for them to do, so as to increase their Math competency in the shortest possible way.

With the RAE, your child will not waste any more time doing questions that do not help them to improve.

2. Memory – How much can you remember?

What if we told you that we have been studying the wrong way all along?

Can you remember the first time you met Pei Xuan? Yeah, it was difficult to remember her name. You were kind of struggling to recall it, but fortunately during your conversation, someone mentioned her name again. That’s when you remember it better, but still, it wasn’t a very strong memory. By the 10th time you heard her name, your brain could naturally link her name to her face.

What about 6 months down the road? If you had contacted her every month, you would probably remember, but if you hadn’t, your memory would have faded, and you won’t be able to remember her name anymore. Such is the nature of the human memory. Why would a Math concept be any different?

In school, we are accustomed to our teachers “going through the topic”, intensively drilling on that one topic, and then when we finally progressed to the next topic, the next time we revisit the same topic again is many months later, just before the exam. How many spelling words does your child remember? What if your teacher keeps testing your child on those words, or he keeps encountering them?

As it happens, researchers have found that the best way to practice is not to intensively fire and forget, but rather, to chop up each topic into small slices, and spread them out, like this:

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The Practicle Way: Distributed Practice vs Conventional Topical method of learning. Picture courtesy of Practicle.sg.

Researchers have found that constant repeated testing produces superior transfer of learning [Butler. (2010). Repeating testing superior learning. Karpicke & Roediger. (2008). Retrieval for learning. Larsen et al. (2009). Repeated testing.] as compared to how we just test once, and then forget all about it. If you have “returned everything to the teacher”, then that’s probably what happened to you. Distributed practice ensures that just when you were starting to forget who “Pei Xuan” is, the name resurfaces to remind you and strengthen your memory.

If we were to do this in school, instead of 4 bigger tests each year, the teachers would need to set 40 sets of smaller tests or exercises, and administer them to students each week. But the work does not stop there. Just as each student is unique, so is their learning ability and memory retention ability. Therefore, that would be 40 sets of personalized tests for 400 students per level. That’s 16,000 tests!

If this is physically impossible, then how do we do it?

The RAE Practice Plan with Memory Boosting

The World has had a taste of digital adaptive learning and personalized learning for some time, but never to this degree. At Practicle, we use the information that we have learned about each student, to generate a personalized Practice Plan for them:

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An example of Practicle’s RAE Practice Plan. Picture courtesy of Practicle.sg.

The RadioActive Engine™ is so-named because it models memory after the natural phenomenon of Radioactive Decay. By specifically practicing at 100% efficiency is not good enough. Using an algorithm based on radioactive decay, the RAE brings up old questions that your child has done, or new questions based on similar skills, concepts and heuristics, to refresh your child’s mind, constantly, daily, weekly.

Students can set a target Grade that they want to achieve for a test or exam as well as the date. The RAE then utilizes what it knows about your child, and plans out the required practice per day as well as how much time a certain topic needs to be practice in a week (up to a maximum of 7 weeks), for your child to work on. We have integrated the latest MOE syllabus as well as assessment objectives and criteria into the system, so the RAE’s planning will be as accurate as possible, and fully aligned to the PSLE.

As long as your child logs in daily, and diligently puts in the amount of practice required, the RAE will do the rest. As your child practices and improves, the RAE will readjust the practice plan on the fly, and gets more accurate and effective over time.

It is never too late to start doing it right. Try out Practicle’s Free Plan today!

For more information on how Practicle can help level up your or your kid’s Math, visit https://tueetor.com/practicle today or call 8754 8837 for more information.