Any solutions used for PSLE Mathematics, including algebra, will be accepted – according to Singapore Examinations and Assessments Board (SEAB). So if your P6 child knows algebra, he or she can use it to solve questions in the PSLE Mathematics paper.

Does that mean students need to learn algebra to do well for the PSLE Maths paper? Isn’t algebra complicated for P4 and P5, or even P6 students?

For P4 and P5 Gifted Education Programme (GEP) students, they will be investigating algebraic concepts as part of their Mathematics curriculum in the form of the Investigative Task. There are 2 Investigative Tasks in a year, which together constitute a significant percentage of the Weighted Assessment.

If we really think about it, learning algebra is really not that far of a stretch, because Primary students actually already know basic algebraic concepts – in the form of model drawing.

Let’s look at a simple example:

Scrooge McDuck saved some money on Monday. Every day thereafter, he saved $2 more than the previous day. At the end of Wednesday on the same week, he had $21. How much did he save on Monday?

Primary school students typically use model drawing to solve questions of this sort, as shown below.

Algebra is simply an abstraction of this model. I.e., the process of visually mapping out the relationships among the variables is skipped by someone who is familiar with algebra.

If u = the amount of money saved on Monday,

then the total amount of money saved by Wednesday = u + u + 2 + u + 2 + 2.

Substituting 21 into the equation and simplifying the expression, we have 21 = 3u + 6, which is what the model depicts.

So the question is – how much algebra do students actually need to know at P4 and P5?

We’ll explore this question in part 2 of this series of blog posts!

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