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Facebook debate ignites as teacher marks student’s ‘correct’ math answer as wrong

Othman Talib, a UCSI University lecturer, criticizes a teacher for marking ‘RM2’ as incorrect in a Standard One Math question where the supposed answer should have been 200 cents.




MALAYSIA: Othman Talib, a lecturer at UCSI University, has recently expressed his dissatisfaction with a teacher who mistakenly deemed a student’s response incorrect to a straightforward Standard One Mathematics question through his Facebook page on Monday (5 Feb).

He criticized the teacher for not recognizing the student’s evident display of critical thinking.

The mathematics question in question, when translated into English, reads as follows: “Ahmad bought one book and two pencils as shown below. Calculate the total amount of money that needs to be paid.”

The accompanying illustration specifies a book priced at 80 sen and a pencil priced at 60 sen.

The student provided a comprehensive solution, arriving at the correct answer of RM2 by summing up 80 sen, 60 sen, and 60 sen.

However, despite the accuracy of the response in the real-world context, the teacher marked it as incorrect.

It appears that the teacher only deemed “200 sen” as the acceptable answer, overlooking the student’s practical and mathematically valid approach.


(Photo: Othman Talib’s Facebook post)

According to Othman, the answer “RM2” should be considered correct since, in both mathematics and the practical context of children’s daily lives, the value of “200 sen” is synonymous with “RM2.”

In his Facebook post, Othman argued, “So, if a student gave the answer as ‘RM2,’ he or she has correctly added the values and just expressed the answer in ringgit, which is mathematically absolutely correct.”

He emphasized that it could be awkward for kids to articulate or write “200 sen,” asserting that “RM2” is a clever and practical response to the question about the “total amount of money that needs to be paid.”

Othman contended that it is crucial to accept “RM2” as a correct answer, particularly when the question did not specify the unit of the answer.

Othman has called for the teacher to award the student full marks for the question instead of deducting points.

Furthermore, he criticized the teacher for denying the student’s entitlement to full marks, highlighting that the student exhibited “Kemahiran Berfikir Aras Tinggi” (KBAT), or high-level thinking skills, in their response.

Othman’s post sparks discussion on teaching methods and student motivation

At the time of this writing, Othman’s post has received significant attention, accumulating over 1,800 likes and 886 comments.

Within the comments section of Othman’s Facebook post, numerous netizens have taken the opportunity to express their viewpoints, with many echoing their agreement with Othman’s stance.

One user expressed dissatisfaction with the teacher, characterizing them as someone who rigidly adheres to rules and follows a prescribed scheme.

Critically, the user questioned, “Where is the art of teaching?” and argued that there’s more than one way to solve a question.

She emphasized the intelligence of the children, noting their ability to convert cents to RM as evidence of their understanding.


Another user contributed to the discussion by suggesting that this incident reflects a broader issue with children nowadays simply adhering to instructions.

Using the example of washing plates, the user pointed out that children tend to only do exactly what is asked of them, not going beyond the specified requirements.


A different user commented on the negative impact such incidents can have on students, stating that it contributes to students feeling discouraged and giving up on their studies.

She emphasized that the students are already doing their best, and instances like these can undermine their efforts.


Differing views on proper steps in math and examination standards in the student’s answer

Nevertheless, there are netizens who hold differing opinions on the matter.

One user emphasized the importance of following steps in mathematics.

According to this perspective, the student should have first written “200 cents” and then converted it to “2 RM.”

This user questioned the validity of the direct summation of 80+60+60=2.


Another user shared a viewpoint centered around adhering to examination standards.

According to this user, students are trained to answer questions in line with the established examination norms.

The user pointed out that being street smart does not exempt the student from following the rules.

The purpose of schooling, as per this perspective, is to cultivate educated citizens who are inclined to comply with various rules, not just those requiring intelligence.


A different user acknowledged the potential genius of the student but highlighted the need to follow specific steps in mathematical calculations.

This user explained that even in simple calculations, there is a prescribed procedure to be followed.

While acknowledging that the student provided the correct answer, the user argued that to obtain full marks, the response should have initially been “200 sen,” followed by its conversion to “2 RM.”

This way, the user contended, the student would have adhered to the question’s structure of 80 sen + 60 sen + 60 sen equating to 200 sen.

math step

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malaysian teachers don’t use RM dollar notes or they marked by robots who never use money?