An Interview with Dion Ong

Dion Ong You Ping holds a Bachelor’s degree in Accountancy. He currently works as a full-time tutor, teaching Mathematics at the primary and secondary levels. He gained his experience in education through conducting lessons in tuition centres. In his years of teaching, Dion has inspired, led and guided hundreds of students to excel in their Mathematics, imparting on them essential mathematical skill sets which include problem-solving, heuristics and critical thinking analysis.

Dion is the author of Upper Primary Mathematics Perfect Problem-Solving Guide. This book is written based on the latest MOE Mathematics syllabus with easy-to-follow step-by-step guidance practices and ample revision questions to deepen understanding of every concept. It specifically helps students to hone problem-solving skills and critical thinking skills.

Today, Dion shares about the importance of critical thinking and problem-solving skill sets.

About your book

Upper Primary Mathematics Perfect Problem -Solving Guide by Dion Ong
  1. What are some of the common difficulties or challenging concepts that students find hard to grasp in Mathematics?
    The common difficulties or challenging concepts are critical thinking word problem skill sets which involve the connection of the relationship of fractions, ratio, percentage and decimals. The skillsets are Repeated Item Concept, One Item Remains the Same, Internal Transfer Concept, Difference Remains the Same, Number and Value Concept and Both Items Changed Differently. Another difficulty that students usually encounter is a comprehensive explanation on how to do model drawing with proper guidance.
  2. How can they overcome these challenges?
    They can overcome the challenges by referring to the examples in my workbook or by asking  an experienced tutor where possible, and complete the entire workbook to grasp all the essential skill sets.
  3. What are some common mistakes that students make when they are solving questions, and how can they avoid making such mistakes?

Students usually make the mistake of not applying the correct concept and diving into the question straightaway. They have to read the questions and identify the keywords to understand what are the changes and clues, which lead to deciding which skill set to use and solve the questions.

4. What are some of the more important problem-solving techniques or concepts that primary school students should master early on?

Students have to master basic model-drawing from Primary 3 and start learning how to identify the skill sets used for word problem sums. Otherwise, it will be a painful process further down the road as the questions will get more challenging.

5. How important is critical thinking when it comes to problem-solving in Mathematics?
Critical thinking is a deep-rooted component of Mathematics. In Primary 5 and 6, students have to sit for two papers which comprises Paper 1 (45 marks) and Paper 2 (55 marks). 20% of the Paper 1 and 80% of the Paper 2 involve critical thinking.

Majority of the students who are weak in critical thinking tend to not do as well in Mathematics. They may be required to study Foundation Mathematics, which focuses less on critical thinking (25%).

6. What else can students do to improve their problem-solving and critical thinking skills?
They can continue to practise more word problem sums provided by school or have tuition to strengthen their understanding and grasp of the concepts.

7. What should students take note of as they progress from Primary to Secondary level Mathematics?
Secondary Mathematics is at a different level from Primary School. They must ensure that they understand the basics of all of the topics, like Algebra for example, which features prominently in Secondary 1.

About Yourself/Work/Expertise

  1. Why did you choose to teach Mathematics?
    I chose to teach instead of becoming an accountant because of passion. I came from a poor family and I could not afford to have tuition in the past. Despite not having tuition, I was able to score As, but not A*s, which made me feel helpless as some classmates were able to score A*s with the help of private tuition. This inspired me to reach out and help as many students as possible and hope that the less fortunate can excel in Mathematics without having to pay hefty fees.

I feel a great sense of belonging and purpose as a tutor cum teacher who can help as many students as possible, which may not be possible if I was an accountant. I believe strongly that everyone in this world has a purpose here: “Live to work instead of work to live”. =]

2. Would you encourage students to study Accountancy? Why?
I would encourage students to study Accountancy if they are interested in numbers and wish to understand more of the business world.

3. What are some of your memorable experiences from teaching Mathematics over the years?
I have many memorable experiences from teaching over the years. I always believe in my students and in staying with them through thick and thin.

A student scored only 15% for his Primary 6 foundation examination and he put all his trust in me to help him. He eventually achieved the highest PSLE score in his school, which was really exciting and memorable.

A Primary 4 student almost gave up on himself due to the consistently bad feedback. I told him, “I know you have the capability to score so let’s do it together. Don’t give up. Believe it and you will see it.” He eventually went on to achieve 90% for the final year examinations.

There are many more examples that cannot be aptly explained in words. =]

4. In your opinion, how can students stay motivated when faced with challenging Mathematics questions?
Students can stay motivated as long as they are able to understand and solve the word problem sums. Parents, teachers and tutors should give positive comments consistently to encourage and motivate students and help them succeed.

Every small step can build up someone’s confidence and lead to great results. I believe in the adage, “Whoever you are listening to will make you the person you are today.” If a parent discourages his or her child and the child loses confidence, it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

As educators and adults we must be very careful with our choice of words as words are powerful. Words can either crush or lift someone to greater heights.

5. Having taught so many students, what are some of the common grouses you have heard from them regarding Mathematics?
The common grouses are too much homework and how homework does not seem to help them prepare for the exams. Some students say Mathematics is very complicated and incomprehensible because of lengthy and ineffective methods. Students also wish they can receive more positive feedback.

6. How can parents encourage or motivate their children to develop a love of Mathematics at home?
Parents can encourage and motivate their children by giving them positive encouragement about their efforts and hard work. Set reasonable targets that are within reach in the short term and slowly work towards achieving long term goals. In addition, explaining the importance of Mathematics in daily life helps too, like using money to buy necessities and how numbers are used as indexes in birth certificates and class registers.

7. Lastly, do you have any other advice for students as they study Mathematics?
I strongly encourage students not to give up and continuously seek improvement. Stay motivated even if you face setbacks. Setbacks are temporary but what you gain is forever!!! =]=]=]=]=]=]