Skip to main content

Was the PSLE Math 2021 paper really more difficult as compared to the 2020 PSLE Math paper?

The difficulty of the PSLE Mathematics exam paper has always been a concern amongst Primary 6 students and parents in Singapore every year and this year is no different. Many discussions have been going on after the PSLE Math paper on social media with parents, tutors and teachers giving their 2 cents’ worth.

Exactly how many tough PSLE Math questions are there in 2021?

Well, according to the news, the “hardest” PSLE question that caught the most attention this year is the Math problem on Helen’s and Ivan’s coins. Besides this, we’ve also heard of some other example questions from our Primary 6 Practicle kids.

Let’s take a look at these PSLE Math problems together, learn how to solve them and see how hard the PSLE questions in 2021 really are.

A) 2021 PSLE Math coin question on Helen and Ivan

This Helen and Ivan coin question goes somewhat like this:

Helen and Ivan had the same number of coins. Each of them had a mix of twenty-cent coins and fifty-cent coins. Helen had 64 twenty-cent coins and Ivan had 104 twenty-cent coins. The total mass of Helen’s coins was 1.134 kg.

a) Who had more money? How much more did the person have?

b) If a fifty-cent coin is 2.7g heavier than a twenty-cent coin, what is the mass of Ivan’s coins in kilograms?

*Note that this might not be the actual phrasing of the question in PSLE.

Why this Helen and Ivan coin question may be difficult for some Primary 6 children:

Now you might be thinking, this coin question sounds fairly straightforward, all our Primary 6 children have to do is to compare the number of twenty-cent coins and fifty-cent coins between Helen and Ivan and name the person with more money.

What’s so tough?

Well, just like any coin question, the complexity comes in when some of our 12-year-olds are unable to distinguish between the number of coins and the value of the coins. If they can’t do that, they may get even more confused when they see the given mass of the coins. 20-cent coins, 50-cent coins, number, value, mass, oh my! Information overload = drop in confidence that they can solve the problem.

Of course, if your child is very familiar with solving Math problems that involves coins and understands how  number and value differs, you won’t have to worry as much because they are not going to have as much problem solving this question.

Answer to PSLE 2021 coin question:

The key to solving part a of this PSLE coin question lies in recognizing that the total number of coins between Helen and Ivan is the same.

This means that the difference in the value of the coins between Helen and Ivan merely depends on how many fifty-cent coins and twenty-cent coins each of them had.

This is also what leads to the difference in the mass of their coins subsequently in part b.

Check out the video solution for this question that goes through the answer to this step by step and see if you got it!

B) 2021 PSLE Math question on Area and Perimeter

This perimeter and area question in the PSLE paper looks somewhat like this:

The perimeter of the shaded part is 4 cm more than that of the unshaded part. a) What is the length of AB? b) What is the area of the shaded part?

*Note that this might not be the actual phrasing of the question.

Why this area and perimeter Math question may be difficult for some Primary 6 children:

Looking at the side of the figure with the length AB on it, our P6 children are used to having the length of a part of the side.

However, that length doesn’t correspond to the opposite side of 7 cm in this PSLE Math problem.

In fact, it is an unknown part of that 7 cm, so the problem isn’t as direct to solve.

Answer to PSLE 2021 Math problem on Area and perimeter:

When it comes to making use of the perimeter of shaded and unshaded parts to find the unknown length AB, the trick is to make use of the knowledge of rectilinear figures and move some lines around to simplify the problem. Being able to do that will help children see the relationship between the given lengths and solve part a of the question easily.

As for part b, the trick is to think about how the shaded part is can be derived from basic shapes that are familiar to you.

Once a Primary 6 child can tell that the shaded area is formed by putting 3 rectangles together and subtracting a triangle from it, they are well on their way to solving this area and perimeter problem in PSLE.

C) 2021 PSLE Math big books small books question 

This big book small book question in the PSLE exam goes somewhat like this:

A bookshelf can fit either 30 big books or 45 small books. There are 3 big books and 23 small books on the bookshelf. What is the maximum number of big books that can be added onto the bookshelf?

*Note that this might not be the actual phrasing of the question.

Why this Math question on big and small books may be difficult for some Primary 6 children:

The main reason lies in the number 23. Some P6 children might feel less confident working with such a prime number and start to doubt themselves when they get a “weird” ratio/fraction.

Answer to this big books small books PSLE question:

To solve this PSLE Math question, you need to be able to see the relationship between the space the big books take up on the bookshelf and the space the small books take up.

When you are able to make use of a ratio to see that, the next part then depends on how you play with the ratio to get the information that you need.


Now that we’ve seen some of the tougher question in this year’s 2021 PSLE Math paper, what do you think?

Are they really as hard as you thought? Would you be able to solve these 3 Mathematics questions if you were the one taking the 2021 PSLE Math paper?

Let us know in the comments below and share your solution with us if you have a different one! Afterall, there’s always more than 1 way of solving any Math problem.

No matter whether you are a Primary 6 parent or student or someone who is checking this out to prepare for your primary school leaving exam next year, we hope that this post on the PSLE Math exam has been useful on your learning journey. =)

Leave a Reply

Close Bitnami banner