I failed Math! Help me!

I failed Math! Help me!

“I failed Math! Help me!” This is one of the worst feared sentences which a parent wants to hear from her child.

Every parent wants their child to excel in their academics. However, many children nowadays are facing problems in solving math problem sums. Many could not cope with the exams and they even failed Math during the exam. As a parent, how do you help your child who is failing Math?

help a child who is failing math

If your child has been failing Math, has one of those thoughts above come to mind? If so, have you as a parent thought about helping your child in other ways on top of looking for help academically?

Before you continue, have you downloaded our “10 Tricky PSLE Math Questions”? These are short but tricky questions, modified from past PSLE Math papers. To download for FREE, click the button below.

tricky psle math questions

Click here to Download


Surely, you do want to help your child, so, there are a few pointers that you can use on top of the professional help that you have been seeking:


1) Find out the root cause:

help a child who is failing math

Instead of blowing off the top when your child said “I failed Math”, another alternative way is to find the cause of all these failures.

If failing a Maths paper becomes a habit, we should find out what exactly is lacking in your child’s education. It can be a lack of interest in the subject or your child does not understand the concepts that have been taught or your child just simply does not understand the questions.


2) Setting goals and expectations

Do you still remember this quote? I’m sure that you have heard it quite often.

Though setting goals and expectations are good, we must also set realistic and achievable ones. That way, we can get our children to reach for the moon that we have been telling them about.



For example, if your child has always been failing the exams since Primary 1, you should NOT expect your child to miraculously pass the PSLE at Primary 6.

Setting goals that may seem IMPOSSIBLE to achieve may put unnecessary pressure on your child.

So, instead of worrying at Primary 6, you should start to take note of your child’s progress at a younger age especially when failing the exams is becoming a habit.

After finding out the root cause, sit down with your child and set simple goals together. Goals and expectations that you have set may not be in terms of just simply results. For example, if your child is prone to making many careless mistakes, one of the goals that can be set will be to reduce the number of careless mistakes.

With simpler realistic goals, your child can work towards them comfortably and improve gradually instead of feeling the frustration or hopelessness of not achieving goals that are out of their reach.


3) Start from the basics

Mastering the basics of Maths is very important if your child is failing Math. Mastering the 4 operations in Maths is crucial.

Many children do have problems remembering the multiplication table. As a result, during the Maths exam, they spend more time doing simple multiplication and division. So, for better results, it will be best if your child is very familiar with the multiplication table.

Mastering unit conversion is also important. It will appear in the papers when you least expect it.
Below are the commonly used units and their conversion.

Though it is important to remember those unit conversions, it is also very important to make sure that your child does not get confused with the highlighted unit conversions.

Understanding the words used in a mathematical problem is very important as well. The words shown above are a few of those words that are quite common. When your child understands the meanings of these words, he will be able to understand what is required of him when he is solving those mathematical problems.

Now you are one step closer to helping your child improve by mastering the basics. The extra time that they spend on figuring out the basics during the exams can be better used to work on other word problems that need more thinking.


4) Eliminate recurring mistakes

When we talk about recurring mistakes, we are mainly looking at the child’s careless mistakes, the child’s handwriting or the child’s misunderstandings of some concepts.


Many times, these careless mistakes can be just simply because of untidy handwriting, like the unclear writing of ‘0’ and ‘6’ or just simply transference errors or calculation errors.

Rope A is 270m long. Rope B is 148m longer than Rope A. Rope C is 99m shorter than Rope B. What is the length of Rope C?

Look at the sample of a child’s work. The number zero is circled in red and if you notice, the number should be written as 148 m instead of 140 m. In order to kick off this habit, help your child to develop a habit of underlining all the numbers in the word problem. This will aid in their writing as the important figures are all underlined.

Also, many children like to use mental calculation but when they tend to make calculation errors like the child’s work shown above, they will lose marks in their exams. If this is one problem that you have noticed, insist that your child checks the answer by writing down the working in the working column like the one shown below.

These errors can cost a lot for these children especially when they are weak in this subject. When we look at their work, we can point them out and constantly remind these children. When careless mistakes are reduced, children will also realise that they fare better in their work.



Look at the sample of a child’s writing. The answer should be 700 right? However, with such writing, one may take it as 60 which means that he will lose marks in this question.

If your child is facing a problem with handwriting,
⇒Remind your child to form all the numbers clearly
⇒Space out the writing of the number statement
⇒When working on word problems, set a working column.

With untidy handwriting, there tend to be more mistakes made unintentionally. That is why teachers tend to focus on children’s handwriting especially when they are young as it is easier to inculcate better writing habits.



math concepts

Look at the question and the solution given. The solution given by 2 children is different. The correct solution is given by the second child. Simple words like clockwise and anti-clockwise may be confusing to a child. So, what can we do? Ask the child to look at the clock and the direction that the minute hand is moving. This will be clockwise while the opposite way will be anti-clockwise.

Another problem that your child may face is a misreading of the keywords. When reading word problems, some children tend to miss out on reading certain words like ‘of the remainder’, ‘altogether’, ‘left’. Thus, they will solve the questions differently like the work example shown.

If we look at the solution that the first child had given, we will realise that the first child had missed reading the keywords ‘of the remainder’. As a result, the solution and the answer given is different from the second child who did not miss out on the three important keywords.

In order not to miss out on important keywords, you can get your child to start this habit of underlining keywords and numbers that he will need to solve the word problems. This will help a lot as your child won’t spend unnecessary time hunting for information in the question.


5) Communication with the teacher

Communication between educators and parents is very important. This is also a way to make sure that everyone is on the same page. Whether it’s the educators or parents, everyone is trying to help the child to improve and excel.

Many parents do work very hard to earn a living to cope with the high standard of living. However, in the midst of their busy schedules, many will forget that they need to establish a form of communication with the educators so that they will be informed of their own children’s progress instead of getting shocked when they get to know their children’s results.

Usually, educators do know the child’s weaknesses. If parents do keep in touch with the educators, be it their children’s school teacher or their tutors, they will be able to monitor their children’s progress and help their children to improve in their work.


6) Focus on Low Hanging Fruits

In Maths, Paper 2 is usually a problem for many children especially those who are in Primary 5 and Primary 6. This is especially so for the weaker children.

Even though children are allowed to use calculators in Paper 2, there are more thinking questions in it. Usually when children are weak in Maths, many parents will request for their children’s tutor to focus on the challenging word problems hoping that this will help them to score in their Maths.

However, there is an alternative way to help their children to pass their papers easily. Basically, we can focus more on Paper 1 where it is easier to score as the easier questions are given in the form of multiple-choice questions and short answer questions.

If you realise that focusing on Paper 1 is more beneficial to your child, you can try the following:

♣ Pick and choose questions that are commonly tested in Paper 1.
♣ Time your child when he is working on Paper 1. Follow the golden rule of spending at most 1 minute for every mark in the paper. If the question is 1 mark, your child should not spend more than 1 minute on that question.
♣ Make sure that your child knows the place values well (for both whole numbers and decimals)
♣ Multiplications and division of fractions

If you are wondering what kind of questions you can pick and choose to help your child, here’s a shortlist on some of the types of questions:

Place value
E.g. How many thousands are there in the product of 7000 and 40?
E.g. Find the value of 15 hundreds and 600 tens.

Solving simple questions on the 4 operations
E.g. Find the value of 16.4 – 8.36.
E.g. What is the remainder when 3467 is divided by 5?

Simple percentage
E.g. In a class of 40 pupils, 30 of them were girls. What percentage of the class were boys?
E.g. A television costs $1200. During a sale, Jen bought it at a 24% discount. How much money did Jen pay for the television?

Rounding off.
E.g. Mr Baker sold 12 356 buns in January. He sold 2345 more buns in February. How many buns did he sell in both months? Round off your answer to the nearest thousand.

Write numbers in words and vice versa.
E.g. Write 4 367 244 in words.
E.g. Write fifty-six thousand, three hundred and seventy in numerals.

Short mathematical problems
E.g. The average of 5 numbers is 8. When one of the numbers was removed, the average became 9. What is the value of the number that was removed?
E.g. Steph and Angie had the same amount of money. After Steph spent $35 and Angie spent $100, Steph had twice as much money as Angie. How much money did each girl have at first?

These short problems can be very tricky. Download our “10 Tricky PSLE Math Questions which are short but tricky questions, modified from past PSLE Math papers. To download for FREE, click the button below.

tricky psle math questions

Click here to Download

With the focus on the easier questions in Paper 1, it can be a results booster for your child. This will, in turn, help your child change his perspective towards Maths.


7) Confidence and Self-esteem

Besides looking at YOUR CHILD’S strengths and weaknesses in the subject, your child’s psychological health matters a lot too.


Many may ask, ‘How do we build up a child’s confidence level?

The most basic way is to reward your child. Rewarding your child doesn’t mean that you always shower them with gifts and expensive items.


Give praises like ‘Well-done!’, ‘I’m very proud of you!’, etc.

To be honest, your child does want to hear praises from you. They look up to you and do hope that they can make you proud by doing their best in their exams.

For the lower ability children, DO NOT put them down if they had tried their best and failed. We should still encourage them by telling them that they can do it and they should try even harder in their next exams. Sometimes it does help when you do notice that your children had improved when they are able to solve problems that they were not able to solve before.

With all those pointers mentioned in mind, we do hope that this will help to ease your difficulty as a parent in helping your child to pass Math. And start to work together with your child to pass not only Math but also in ‘reaching for the moon’!

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