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Math Heuristics: Different Ways To Do Primary School Maths

Updated: Oct 11, 2022

Math Heuristics: Different Ways To Do Primary School Maths

You may have heard the term “math heuristics” recently, especially if you’ve researched your child’s primary school math syllabus enough. But what does it mean? And how can you knowing more about it positively impact their education? Fortunately for all your burning questions, we’ve prepared a guide for all things related to math heuristics right here. Just read on to learn more!

What are they?

Before we dive deep into the concept, you’ll have to know what heuristics are.

When broken down to its bare essentials, a heuristic is a mental shortcut forged based on our memories and experiences. When you think about rules or estimations or even the stereotypes and prejudices people have, these are all examples of heuristics.

The same concept can be applied to mathematics.

In maths, heuristics are strategies people can apply to solve math problems quickly and accurately. These methods are often researched and tested thoroughly by mathematicians of the past, the knowledge of which has been passed on so that we can utilise them to solve our math problems.

Why use them?

Maths should be both a practical and fun subject for children, yet many of them struggle with it. If you’ve been paying attention, you’d have seen that the Singapore primary school maths syllabus relies heavily on solving problems. This tends to difficult for many student because there are no obvious approaches to solving problem sums – especially true when it comes to maths for primary 5 and 6 students. Critical thinking skills become more and more of a necessity at this stage, and that’s where maths heuristics come in.

  • They make you better problem solvers

Math heuristics is a powerful tool in your child’s arsenal to get those pesky problem sums right. Understanding how to use them can drastically improve their chances of solving math problems. They receive a set plan for how to do the question and also a rough idea of what it entails.

For instance, when faced with a difficult question, they only have to think back to a straightforward question from the same topic and apply a similar means when solving it.

  • Saves time and effort

Since math heuristics have already been proven to work, they’re saving themselves a lot of time and effort by not having to devise a solution all on their own.

Additionally, your child can solve these problems through more methodical means. They arrive at the answer much quicker without all the extra cognitive energy used for overthinking the question.

The types of maths heuristics used for primary school math

Under the Singapore curriculum, math heuristics are categorised as such:

1. Making educated guesses

Guess and check is a method introduced to children when they reach primary 3. The idea of this particular heuristic is for your child to guess what the answer could be and then check if the answer is correct. If they’re wrong, they’ll keep going until everything is aligned.

2. Visualising the problem

Students can draw a diagram befitting the problem sum to visualise the answer better. Or they can make a systematic list of all possible solutions and go from there.

3. Walk through the process

They can do this by either acting it or working backwards. To work backwards, students will start with the sum total used in the question and work their way to the answer. They often have to draw a model to do this correctly.

4. Make it simple

For this set of heuristics, students can solve one aspect of the problem first and or they can search for patterns in the question.

5. Consider special cases

In these situations, it would be best to make an assumption and work backwards. You can “assume” the answer to the question and then try and fulfil all the question conditions to see if it fits.


Because mathematics is filled with patterns, understanding heuristics is a sure-fire way for your child to get better at solving math problems. Under your guidance, with a bit of critical thinking and a lot of practice, they can understand the subject at a much deeper level and get their grades up by quite a bit! For additional support outside of home, you may want to consider enrolling your child in ColourTrain Academy, which is a high-quality and comprehensive math tuition centre in Singapore. Their Math tutors will ensure that your child is equipped with all the necessary tools needed to excel. Contact us today to learn more!

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