A TFM Christmas: More Than Just Maths

As we approach Christmas, we take the time to reflect on our greatest source of strength and inspiration: our students. For those who think that Mathematics is all about numbers, think again. In this story, 2012 Fellow Tan Kai Lee learns – from a student, no less – that Maths can be so much more.


Today, a student named N came to my table in the staff room, greeted me politely and handed me a huge brown envelop before he left. I thought it might be a belated Teacher’s Day card, or he might have secretly found out that my birthday was the coming Sunday.

Carefully, I opened the envelope and found a few papers written by N.

He apologised for not finishing his homework and failing to perform in my class lately. He explained his reasons structurally for not performing in the class, saying that one of the reasons is because I taught too fast and he couldn’t catch up, besides having personal issue and distractions from his friends.

He then came up with a few suggestions for improving the situation, including continuing our journal writing and extra classes. He also explained some of the actions which he has taken on his own to improve by enrolling in a motivational program related to Maths and getting help from his friends.

Finally, he provided me with a feedback form and a suggested teaching plan for his class from now until October before the final year exam before signing off with a National Day wish and his love.

I paused for a moment after reading his letter. This brown envelope held N’s Statement of the Problem and his proposal for a solution. Isn’t this the reason why we

learn Mathematics? Isn’t this creativity?

We discover a problem. We understand the issue. We invent solutions and we solve the problem. Isn’t this Maths?

All this while, I thought Maths must be in numerical form but today, I have learned that Maths is a skill that helps us to be structured and creative in solving daily challenges.

I am so proud that my student has taken a very, very brave step to voice his issue and be able to find a solution in helping him and his friends to succeed. He has learned to be assertive and be able to lead himself and his community.

Now, this teacher can leave knowing that her students have learned how to lead themselves in achieving their dreams.