Promotion criteria for Normal Academic (NA) students were revised in 2009 to base on N-Level examination aggregate score on EMB3 (English, Math and best 3 subjects). The revision aligns promotion criteria with Polytechnics’ admission requirements which is always based on 5 subjects aggregate scores, with EL and Math required for most courses.

## Math Is Mandatory For NA Promotion

Making math mandatory for promotional consideration at N-Level is to ensure Secondary 4 NA students who move on to Secondary 5 are able to cope with O-Level math. Prior to the 2009 policy change, only 60% of secondary 5 students could make it to Polytechnics. The 40% who failed had to move on to the Institute Of Technical Education (ITE) after spending one wasted year in secondary 5. Most of them who failed were due to poor math foundation.

Under the policy change, not only is math made mandatory for promotion, NA math standard is also raised, making it closer to Express stream. In most schools, NA students use the same math textbook as Express students.

## NA And Express Math Almost Same Standard

With the 2009 policy change, there is effectively very little difference in NA and Express streams in math and English syllabus. Naturally, parents would always want to choose for their children Express stream, which is a better stream.

For students who are unsuccessful in getting into the Express class, the next available option is to seek transfer-promotion to Express stream at lower secondary. Though every school differs in transfer-promotion requirements, the mandatory qualifying subjects are still English, math and science. One who excels in English and Math would always stand better chance for transfer-promotion to Secondary 2 Express.

## Math Fear Among Students

Many students who are weak in math had math fear since primary school. Most students had their math fear when they were taught the topic on fraction in Primary 4. The first step towards overcoming math fear is for a student to take a serious effort to clear all their doubts on fraction.

Unfortunately, many Sec-1NA students are not aware of the importance of fractions and allow their confusion to aggregate further when they progress into algebra fraction. It is important for students to re-learn fraction manipulation, so as to be at ease with math.

## Overcoming Math fear In Secondary 1

With the new EMB3 promotion criteria, NA students who are weak in math will have to overcome their math fear as early as possible so as to meet the academic requirements at Secondary 4.

The best year to overcome math fear is in Secondary 1. The biggest contrast between Secondary and Primary math is the absence of complicated model-math. There is also much less “word problems” which test primary students more in English than Math. Exercises in math workbook use concise English which is easy to understand. All word problems can be easily solved by algebra, a far cry from drawing messy bar-models in primary math.

## Math Tutor For Normal Academic Students

With suitable math help, Secondary 1 NA students can excel in Math with ease. The most effective math help is to engage a professional NA math tutor. Good math tutor is able to help student overcome math fear and change their attitude towards learning math. Once the learning attitude towards math is changed, typically within 2 to 4 months, the student will soon become a highly motivated math student.

Unfortunately, many NA students allow math fear to haunt them throughout their secondary school. Some students eventually seek serious help when they enter into Secondary 3 or 4, only to realize that there are too many wrong concepts to unlearn. In contrast, a NA student having a good math tutor in Secondary 1 may not need any more math help in the later part of his secondary education.