Home News Featured News Primary 1 girl's answers to maths questions go viral

Primary 1 girl’s answers to maths questions go viral

Teacher marks answers wrong but aunt says girl "sees things from a different point of view"




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Singapore — A Primary 1 girl’s answers in her maths schoolwork have gone viral, prompting a serious online debate on the approach to education in Singapore.

On Feb 25, Facebook user Siying Tan posted a photo of her niece’s maths schoolwork. It had been sent to her by her brother, with the question: “What’s wrong with these two questions?”

Under the section “Count”, the only instructions were: “Write the numbers.” These were  followed by two questions which had illustrations of ducklings and puppies.

Photo: Siying Tan / Facebook

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Students were required to fill in the blanks with the correct numbers. The statements read:

Question (a): There are ________ (This had an illustration of a duckling facing left).

Question (b): There are ________ (This had an illustration of a puppy lying down and facing left).

Ms Tan’s niece’s answers to questions (a) and (b) were 3 and 1, respectively. The teacher marked both answers wrong because, according to the teacher, there were six ducklings and nine puppies.

However, Ms Tan felt that the girl “sees things from a different point of view”.

“Yes, most of you may think that my niece doesn’t know how to count, but the fact is that she is a creative girl! (at least in my opinion!). I am so surprised that this little girl sees things from a different point of view!” she wrote.

Here is a closer look at the questions and the girl’s answers:

Photo: Siying Tan / Facebook

The illustrations with the questions are a duckling facing left and a puppy lying down and facing left.

“Naturally my niece will find the number of animals that look the same as the picture given!” said Ms Tan.

That is exactly what the little girl did. She counted the number of ducklings facing left (three) and the number of puppies lying down facing left (one).

Ms Tan added that, while she grew up being taught things the “traditional way”, children nowadays are “creative” and “we should not kill their creativity this way”. She urged teachers to “use words instead of pictures” in school questions.

“May I call out to MOE (Ministry of Education), to be more mindful of the questions they set in the syllabus and curriculum. Plan and set your questions properly and clearly. Do not make the young generation lose their passion in learning,” she wrote.


This picture was sent to me by my brother just now.This is a photo of my niece's Primary 1 schoolwork.The moment my…

Posted by Siying Tan on Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Ms Tan’s post has been shared nearly 2,000 times and has got netizens talking.

Social media users defended the girl, saying that they, too, would have answered the questions in the same way:

Many felt that the questions were not properly framed and were, therefore, ambiguous:

One person noted that the school children could have “challenged the question” and suggested a dialogue session:

While Ms Tan called her niece “creative”, others felt that she was “logical”, a “concrete learner” and had “attention to detail”:

There were also those who said that the present educational system “limits” and “kills” the natural intelligence of children:

Some people addressed the MOE directly, tagging it in their comments:

Others hoped the girl would not be “discouraged” after having both answers marked as “wrong” and agreed that the question should have been phrased differently:


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