## Additional Maths – Is It Worth Taking This “Additional” Subject?

As Secondary 2 students prepare for their streaming examination and choose their subject combination for the O Levels, common questions asked are “How is A Maths different from E Maths?” and “is A Maths really necessary?” It is considered to be one of the most important subjects at the O Levels, and many have enrolled in private Additional Maths tuition to help them secure the easy A1 for this subject. This article will help to answer your queries on Additional Maths, as well as provide some of the best pointers on scoring well for the subject.

A common misconception (strongly suggested by their names) is that Additional Maths (A Maths) is more difficult than Elementary Maths (E Maths). What does each subject constitute and how are they different anyway? E Maths actually covers simpler applications of Maths used in our daily lives. It helps us with practical applications such as when taking measurements or making transactions – basically skills that you would use on a daily basis. On the other hand, A Maths goes under the surface, teaching you formulas and concepts that will not be used in everyday life. These complex formulas covered in the A Maths syllabus are to be used for higher levels of Maths studies, or those that are needed in Science related disciplines. Therefore, it can be said that E and A Maths, though overlapping, actually cover different content that require different scales of understanding and perceptions. Contrary to popular belief, some students can find themselves doing better in A Maths than in E Maths, due to the nature of the topics covered. A Maths questions are easier for some as they do not require much visualising and are easy to grasp with practice, while E Maths questions demands logical thinking and visualising, and includes more advanced application questions which are designed to make you think out of the box. The course aims of E and A Maths have been summarised in a presentation by Dunman Secondary School as below:

So here comes the serious question: “Should I take A Maths?” Additional Maths tutors would first advise you to examine your own interests in Maths. If you love solving Maths problems and have a reasonably good aptitude for Maths, the obvious conclusion would be to go for it. Even if you are in the Normal Academic (NA) stream and personally love Maths, you are more than welcome to take up the subject at the N and O Levels! If you are good at Maths, taking up A Maths would be a wise decision, as you would be able to consider both E and A Maths into your L1R5 / L1B4 scores as well. Next, do take a look at your Sec 2 Maths results to consider whether taking on this additional subject would require you to work extra hard at the expense of your other subjects. CHIJ Secondary recommends that a “good pass of 60% and above is recommended” for your A Maths consideration. After all, moving to upper Secondary is a big step – many students end up requiring Additional Maths tuition and should not compromise time for your other subjects. Another good point brought up by Additional Maths tutors is that the students who take up A Maths are probably the ones who are already better at Maths, so do beware of the extremely steep bell-curve at the O Levels. Everyone (including weak Maths students) takes E Maths, so the bell-curve would not be as skewed there, making it the easier subject to score an A1 for. To brush up on your lower Secondary Maths syllabus, perhaps you can consider enrolling into Private Maths Tuition.

“Do I need A Maths to take up H2 Maths in JC?” Though you are only halfway through Secondary school, planning ahead is very important. A Maths covers Calculus, which takes up a substantial weightage of the H2 Maths examination in JC. It also helps to develop your critical thinking skills early, which will be needed in H2 Maths, where the concepts are a lot harder to grasp. The H2 Maths syllabus is built on the assumption that students already have the Additional Maths content grounded, so while it is not completely impossible that you take up the subject, be prepared to work twice as hard to catch up with your peers in JC. Additionally, A Maths may actually be a prerequisite to undertake H2 Maths in many JCs, such as CJC, SAJC and HCI. To take up other advanced subjects like H2 Physics, A Maths is also a prerequisite, as stated by EJC. H2 Maths is definitely a struggle even for students with a strong A Maths foundation, so “students who wish to offer H2 Maths without Additional Maths background must be prepared to do the necessary bridging”, as quoted by CJC.

On the other hand, CJC also recommends that H1 Maths would instead be “particularly appropriate for students without an Additional Mathematics background”. If you are planning to take up Maths at H1 level in JC, there is no particular need for A Maths, though it would certainly give you an advantage. Well then, now the question is whether there is a need to take up H2 Maths, or if H1 would suffice. If you have a vague idea of what career path you would like to pursue in future – a Maths / Science / Engineering related discipline – then these would definitely demand a thorough understanding in A Level H2 Maths. Taking a look at NTU’s subject prerequisites for Accountancy, Business and Economics, A Maths would be an essential requirement. Though it may seem far-fetched, the choice you make on whether to take A Maths for the O Levels could force you to take a drastic turn in your desired career path. Just to “stay safe”, Additional Maths tutors have observed that many students tend to take A Maths anyway, so as not to limit their career opportunities in future.

## Point 1: Mastering Your Content

Now that you have made the decision to embark on your Additional Mathematics journey, the first tip that tutors would give is to make sure that you master your content. You can certainly brush up your content by enrolling yourself into private Additional Maths Tuition to gain extra help. Before you get started, make sure that you are aware of the official syllabus that has been published by SEAB – A Maths for N Levels and O Levels. The O Level A Maths syllabus consists of 3 main categories:

– Algebra

– Geometry and Trigonometry

– Calculus

Algebra is the essence of Secondary Maths, which takes a vastly different approach from Primary Maths. Algebra requires a great deal of equation manipulation and solving, so do start off by getting this grounded well, as it is unescapable in both A Maths and E Maths. Calculus is also a brand new segment that A Maths students need to build a strong proficiency in – many students seem to find Differentiation and Integration tricky and require some time to get the hang of. Other topics like Binomial Theorem may seem fearful just by taking a first look of it, but it is in fact very easy to grasp once understood.

In mastering your A Maths content, you are in fact killing two birds with one stone as there are many cross topics that are found and applicable in the E Maths syllabus as well! Examples are Algebra, Indices, Geometry and Trigonometry. They cover the same foundational ideas, so getting these concepts mastered can greatly build up your confidence in handling both subjects well. Nevertheless, as many of the A Maths topics are new and familiar, take time to absorb the concepts and formulae and comprehend them well, as memorisation without understanding can only help you to a minimal extent. It is also important to learn how to use your Approved Scientific Calculator correctly and efficiently in your calculations. As there might not be enough time in class to ask your Maths teacher for questions, engage an A Maths tutor if you need the individual attention outside of school time to clarify your confusions and doubts.

## Point 2: Applying and Answering the A Maths Questions Correctly

Now that you are able to solve your basic equations as seen in your textbooks and school assignments, the next thing that you would need to make sure is to have the ability to apply these Mathematics skills in all sorts of different and complicated contexts. Students need to learn how to analyse different question requirements, and apply the relevant and appropriate Mathematical formulas and techniques to result in the correct solution. A list of basic formulae will be given to you in the A Maths exam, but it is advised that you should not depend on nor refer to them as much as possible. Know them at your fingertips so that it would be easy to focus on learning how to approach the question – that way, the formula and workings will come naturally after. Students have enrolled into Additional Maths tuition because they need help in making the correct links and connections between the raw formulae that they know, and the questions they face.

Another area that truly tests your manipulation and application skills is in “Proving” questions. This is often found in the Trigonometry topic, which requires students to exercise critical thinking skills and to come up with Mathematical explanations, logical arguments and proofs to the information given in the question. Students must learn to see equations from all different angles and learn how to work backwards. Additional Maths tutors notice that “Proving” questions are often where students get stuck, so do seek the necessary help from them to acquire some clever strategies on how to solve them!

Do not be disheartened as your application skills will be sharpened with practice and exposure to more advanced questions. You can predict A Maths questions to be a little more “rigid” and “formatted” especially in Algebra, so your analysis and application skills can be easily trained with increased familiarity. In comparison, E Maths questions tend to be a little more “creative” and unpredictable. Some questions are a little more indirect with the information given and require more advanced higher-order thinking.

In application questions, Additional Maths tutors also find themselves constantly having to remind students not to miss out on seemingly minor but extremely crucial details – units, decimal places and significant figures. It is definitely undermined that mistakes regarding these seem to be negligible, but many marks could be lost once accumulated. Note that unless explicitly stated in the question,

– SI units will be used for measurements

– Angles should be limited to 1 Decimal Place

– Intermediate workings should be done with 4/5 Significant Figures, and the final answer should be in 3 Significant Figures

Be extra cautious and consistent in these details, as they could actually cause you to make careless mistakes and can affect your final answer. Make sure that you read all requirements of the question clearly.

Enrolling into Additional Maths tuition trains students to be neat, clear and systematic in their solutions. As clearly stipulated in the SEAB syllabus, “Omission of essential working will result in loss of marks” – it cannot be emphasised any more that ALL working steps must be shown. This is to show the examiner that you fully understand the entire procedure that you have penned down to have resulted in your final answer. Though students tend to want to save time by speeding through the easier questions to complete the paper comfortably, accuracy takes precedence in order to score the maximum marks possible. Not skipping steps will help you to minimise careless mistakes in your work.

## Point 3: Practice Makes Perfect!

“Practice makes perfect” – there is no other academic subject that this phrase could be more directly associated with. Mathematics is a participatory and progressive subject. It is participatory because you must put in the constant practice to ensure that your Maths concepts are continuously brushed up and that they stay unceasingly refreshed. Without practice, any improvement or retention of your skills would be difficult. The topics in Maths are also like lego bricks; without the foundation bricks of concepts from your earlier topics tightly secured, one will not be able move on to the next stack and hence unable to progress. Getting Additional Maths tuition help would be beneficial as you will be consistently giving enough attention to the subject and putting your Maths skills to work each week.

In practising your Maths concepts, get started by doing topical practice questions, and make a habit of clearing your doubts with your personal Additional Maths tutor as soon as you can. Next, practise doing your schools’ past year exam papers, as well as others schools’ past year mid-year and preliminary exam papers which your tutor will be able to provide you upon request. School papers are known to be more challenging and would turn the level of difficult up a notch as compared to the actual O Levels, so this would be a good way to really test your understanding and application skills!

Lastly, get your hands on a copy of the Ten Year Series (TYS), as this will be the most accurate representation of what to expect in the actual O Level examination. You will also start to notice how similar and repetitive the questions can get. There are many recurring questions, some even to the extent of being exactly the same with the exception of the number values! Before that, do make sure that you familiarise yourself well with the A Maths exam format for the O / N Levels where appropriate:

For the final O Level examination, students will be tasked with 2 papers – 2 Hours and 2.5 Hours each. Cultivate good exam habits by doing timed practices to get used to the pressure of limited time. Make sure that you are able to complete all questions in the TYS papers and prelim papers in the stipulated time, to simulate the actual examination. Make sure that you have at least 5-10 minutes to skim through your solutions and check for any visible careless mistakes. Also, practise discipline by not spending too much time pondering over questions that you are unsure of – skip over and come back to them later. With Additional Maths tuition, students will learn all these smart exam skills that are essential to gain every mark possible in their A Maths exam.

## Point 4: Seek Help and Enrol in Additional Maths Tuition

Know yourself well – if Mathematics if not your strongest point, MindFlex would greatly advise that you seek help as early as possible by taking up Additional Maths tuition lessons, before your misconceptions and confusions snowball. Private 1-1 lessons with your Maths tutor will be very helpful, as he/she would be able to provide you with personalised lesson plans as well as resources to cater to your needs. Here at MindFlex, we are able to connect you with Singapore’s Top Tutors – whether Part-time, Full-time or MOE Trained Teachers as according to your requirements – who will be able to guide you where necessary.

Students who are already intrinsically strong in their Maths concepts have also feedback that they find private A Maths tuition to be beneficial as well, because tutors would be able to stretch them beyond their capabilities and encourage them to think out of the box. On top of allocating more time to teach more complex questions to challenge you, A Maths tutors can also spend time teaching you various alternative methods from the ones that you are used to, to solve certain questions. Ultimately, many can testify that private Additional Maths tuition lessons have proven to be a fruitful and productive use of time due to the individualised and personal attention that one can get.

## Conclusion

Additional Mathematics is a subject that is heavily based on practice and repetition. The most important tip that MindFlex has to offer is to familiarise yourself with the way the examination questions are asked, so that you are well prepared on how to tackle them. Your observations on the types of recurring questions can certainly help you to extrapolate and predict similar question types for the O Levels. It is one of the subjects that one can most easily prepare for, so do not put the opportunity to waste. Once you have your concepts and exam tricks mastered by heart, an easy A1 in Additional Mathematics can almost be guaranteed! Never mind if you do not have a great innate “number sense”, MindFlex can offer you a solution by providing you with the right guidance to help you beat the bellcurve in your A Maths exam. Contact us today to engage a good Additional Maths tutor, and will be delighted to assist you anytime!

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