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Mr Chen's anecdotes.


Secondary 2 is where math starts to feel like an uphill better for most students. Singapore Math has developed students' ability to visualize using models. However, application algebra is only introduced in the latter half of secondary 1. Similar to other things in life, we tend to struggle with things that we are not familiar with. It only gives us more stress and anxiety knowing that it will be tested and graded.

In order for students to excel in algebra, they must first be clear about the 3 types of algebra questions and apply the correct corresponding skills.

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1. Expand & Simplify

Most algebra questions would require some level of expansion and simplification. Expansion can be seen plainly as just "opening of brackets through multiplication".

While simplification is ensuring that only 1 of each term is present in the equation such that that could be no further addition or subtraction.

Students generally do very well for such category of questions as it is rather mechanical and only requires them to perform their orders of operations correctly. Marks are usually lost only due to careless mistakes such as miscalculation or lack of focus when solving the question.

2. Factorize

The biggest area of concern for most sec 2 students - factorization.

Factorization, in its most basic form, is the reversal of expansion. In expansion, you perform the orders of operations to open brackets and reduce it to an expression with only 1 of each term. In factorization, you are looking to form brackets in a form similar to "Expand & Simplify" questions. If the opening of brackets (expansion) is doing multiplication, the forming of brackets (factorization) is therefore doing division.

There are many reasons why sec 2 math students struggle in this area. Factorization is difficult due to the variety of techniques it requires.

Factorization can be done by

  1. Extraction of common factors

  2. Identity

  3. Grouping

  4. Multiplication Frame

Some students are unable to identify the correct technique to be used. Other times, questions may require the use of multiple techniques together. Furthermore, it's always easier to multiply than divide, hence the struggle.

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3. Solve

Solving an equation for most sec 2 math students is a hurdle, especially if their factorization techniques are below par.

Solving an equation means calculating the value that x is in a given expression. Such questions usually require a student to expand and simplify the expression. Next, students are to isolate x on the left hand side (LHS) of equation, while keeping all the numbers and values on the right hand side (RHS) of equation. In other words, algebra manipulation is required to make x the subject of an equation.

In sec 1, questions are relatively straightforward. Questions presented are linear equation which usually only requires the shifting of terms to make x the subject. However, in sec 2 math, questions revolve around quadratic equations.

In order to solve a quadratic equation, factorization is to be performed on the equation before a student can make x the subject and therefore solve. Hence, factorization is of utmost importance in sec 2 algebra math questions.

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Don't let Algebra defeat you

Algebra is the bane of many students' existence especially in their early secondary school days. However, students need to realize such techniques are absolutely essential in order to solve higher-order questions. In fact, all these are merely techniques to apply to questions that concern major concepts such as trigonometry and calculus.

It is therefore imperative that students master algebra techniques before they progress to upper secondary math and hence the focus on algebra in secondary 2. If there is one thing Mr Chen is proud of, it is that his Sec 2 Math students only achieve high A1 for Sec 2 Math exams. It is not too late to seek help. Contact us here or check out his library of TikTok video tutorial on algebra here!

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