Parents upset as PSLE maths paper leaves pupils in tears
Some say certain questions were exceptionally tough, educators say they required creativity to solve
This year's Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) mathematics paper left some pupils in tears and drew a backlash from several parents.
Some questions from the second section, known as Paper 2, were exceptionally difficult, parents told The Straits Times.
Three questions were shared online after the paper last Friday, and a Facebook post by a parent airing her grievances on Monday was shared more than 1,000 times.
Parents also took issue with "tricky" PSLE questions in 2015 and 2017.
Legal counsel Chia Su Anne, in her 40s, said her friend saw pupils emerging from school with "puffy red eyes". Her son said it was harder than preliminary papers but manageable.
Counsellor Cheryl Sim, 49, said her son had also found the exam tough.
"He felt so down after the paper. So we gave him more support for the last few papers."
Others felt the questions were manageable.
Mr Michael Ma, 44, said he talked to his son and looked at the questions circulating online. He felt they were "tricky" but not out of the syllabus scope.
"These questions could differentiate the best students from the good ones," he said.
"With a good understanding of the syllabus, a pupil should be able to do well."
A spokesman for the Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board said questions in all national exams are based on topics within the syllabus.
The aim is to "assess students' ability to understand and apply concepts".
He said there is a balance of "basic, average and challenging" questions so standards are maintained from year to year.
The Paper 2 exam was 11/2 hours long, comprising five short-answer questions and 12 long-answer questions.
Educators said it is typical for some questions every year to be more complex and require some level of creativity.
One question asked pupils to figure out patterns in a set of triangles, while another required them to find the diameter of a circle, given a set of semi-circles and measurements.
A word problem tested the pupils' application of calculating percentages.
Mr Wallace Wong, co-founder of tuition centre Study Room, said the questions did not involve technical maths skills, such as a deep proficiency in algebra.
"It just takes patience and the ability to stay calm... to try different methods of visualising and solving a question."
But parents said it was unreasonable to expect children to think creatively under pressure.
Ms Ng Su-Ling, 47, who works in a charity organisation, said some questions seemed to be more a test of IQ than maths.
"The standards seem to be higher than what is to be expected of mainstream children."