From the Editor’s Desk

11th October 2023

The practice of teaching and learning Mathematics in Singapore has changed over many years, not only in terms of the contents of the syllabus, but the focus on certain courses as per the needs of society. As society develops and technology matures, there will be different needs and skills students will have to fulfil as the job landscape changes. For example, AI was an unthinkable technology before recently, with many people dubbing it science fiction. Now, the use of ChatGPT and other Artificial Intelligence tools is widespread and extremely common.

1. Staying relevant in a changing world

The technological landscape is changing, with more advanced computing tools making it easier to solve rudimentary problems in less time and with less effort than a real human. The real challenge of the modern world is to think in terms of a big picture – how does someone stay relevant amidst the changing times? The answer is by harnessing the technology available in creative ways to solve existing problems, and to prevent the technology from being misused.

An example of this in real life is the application of anti-cheating software in detecting which university students use ChatGPT to commit academic dishonesty. The advent of ChatGPT has an unintended consequence of misuse and abuse by students attempting to get better grades by passing off AI-generated work as their own. As such, this problem must be mitigated by programmers who harness the existing ChatGPT technology to detect when it is being misused by creating software to detect certain patterns in the words in the assignment.

2. Increasing technological involvement

In today’s technological landscape, there are more avenues for technology to be incorporated in Mathematics. An example are Graphic Display Calculator, where students can draw graphs and make complex calculations. These calculators would not have been in use in the past, but nowadays, students are capable of doing more than their predecessors have. Nowadays, computers and various software have made it far easier to undertake larger projects which require more complex calculations. As such, the Mathematics curriculum needs to evolve to make space for these solutions to be implemented as part of learning and problem-solving.

3. Ensuring Singapore’s competitiveness in the global stage

It is important to ensure that Singapore remains competitive in the global stage with regards to performance in Mathematics. Singapore has consistently outperformed other countries in academic performance, as the standards of Mathematics in Singapore are considerably higher as compared to other countries. Singaporean students are consistently made to perform beyond their age level. The Mathematics curriculum should continue to evolve as it should teach students new skills and ideas which put them ahead of others in their grade.

4. Preparing students with the basic skills for university and employment

The Mathematics syllabus should prepare students with the basic skills not only for university, but also for employment. In the real world, there are no “exams” in an academic setting – rather, people will need to use their existing knowledge to solve real world problems. Moreover, Mathematics in theory will not be the same as the application, as in real life, there are many other factors to consider, such as budget and other departments who have different functions.

Teachers will need to keep up with the latest trends and developments in teaching Mathematics. Changing variations of questions are one example of how the Mathematics syllabus in Singapore has changed. Teachers will need to think about the context in which a student is learning a particular topic, moving beyond teaching to prepare students for exams and into teaching for a more practical application – preparing students to handle future novel problems.