When a child enters Primary 1, the mathematics syllabus does not assume any formal learning. However, the following are basic pre-numeracy skills that are necessary for providing a good starting point.


Basic Pre-numeracy Skills

  • Matching

The child begins by matching things that have the same characteristics (color, shape and size) using concrete things followed by pictures.

  • Sorting

As they begin to match more than two things, they are sorting. This involves separating things into groups according to similarities. This involves the following steps:

– Deciding which characteristics to sort
– Physically sort
– Describing the reason for their choice

  • Comparing

For example, the child is able to compare quantity (more, less, same) or length (longer, shorter, same) of things.

  • Basic Shapes

The child is able to recognise basic shapes (like squares, rectangles, circles and triangles) around them. For example, a slice of bread may look like a square, a wedge of cheese may look like a triangle and so on.

  • Counting

Basic counting to 10 by singing, using fingers, abacus beads, toys etc.

Some common errors in Primary School Maths

  • 7 is 2 less than ____.

The child would say the answer is 5, because they see the word “less” and simply compute 7 – 2 = 5.

  • 3 – 7 = 4

The child writes a wrong subtraction statement by using a smaller number to take away a bigger number.

  • Peter has 3 marbles. He buys 2 more and gives 1 to Jane. How many does he have now?
  • 3 + 2 = 5 – 1 = 4

Here the child understands how to solve the problem, but does not know what the “=” sign means.

  • 2 x 3 = 6 is the same as 3 x 2 = 6

Although the answer is the same, these multiplication statements do not mean the same thing.

By Lau Chin Loong

Co-founder of Seriously Addictive Mathematics (S.A.M), he is also the lead mathematics curriculum developer for S.A.M and the principal trainer for the franchise. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in psychology from Dalhousie University (Canada) and has an MBA from Leicester University (UK). He also holds a Post-Graduate Diploma in Education from NIE (NTU). Before co-founding S.A.M, he was a primary school teacher. He has taught at Swiss Cottage Primary School and Anglo-Chinese School (Barker). Chin Loong was in consumer banking at the United Overseas Bank prior to joining M.O.E. as a teacher.

This was first published in Parenting with Love: Preparing your child for Primary School

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