Many pupils face problems when it comes to solving long structured questions in Paper 2. This is especially so when the problem sums are wordy and pupils feel intimidated the moment they come across them.
This article focuses on using the STAR approach which helps pupils to tackle problem sum in a systematic manner. It is a common approach used in local primary schools to help pupils in analysing problem sums.
Basically, the STAR approach can be broken down into four steps as shown below:
S – Study the problem

T – Think of a strategy/plan

A – Act on the plan

R – Reflect on my answer

I am going to use one question as an example to show how we can use the STAR approach to tackle problem sum in a systematic way.
Question
^{1}⁄_{2} of Dylan’s savings was twice of Flora’s savings. After their father gave Dylan $32 and Flora $60, Flora’s savings is ^{1}⁄_{3} of Dylan’s savings. How much savings did Dylan have at first?
1) Study and understand the problem
^{1}⁄_{2} of Dylan’s savings was twice of Flora’s savings.
(At first, Dylan’s savings was 4 times that of Flora’s)
After their father gave Dylan $32 and Flora $60,
(Both of them had more money added to their savings and each of their total savings had changed.)
Flora’s savings is ^{1}⁄_{3} of Dylan’s savings
(In the end, Dylan’s savings is 3 times that of Flora’s)
How much savings did Dylan have at first? (I need to find how much Dylan had at first) 
2) Think of a plan
There are scenarios of ”At first” and “In the end” and the amount of savings one had is “a few times” of the other person in the end.
For contextual clues of “more than/less than” or “ as many times as”, I can actually use “Before and After” models to compare changes in the amount of savings.
Note that the phrase “Flora’s savings is ^{1}⁄_{3} of Dylan’s savings” can also be expressed as :
F : D = 1 : 3 (Ratio)
Or
Dylan’s savings is 3 times of Flora’s
3) Act on the plan
Strategy : “Before” and “After” Models
4u + 32 = 3u + 180 1u → 180 – 32 = 148 4u → 148 x 4 = 592 
4) Reflect on my answer
592 ÷ 4 = 148
148 + 60 = 208
592 + 32 = 624
208 : 624 = 1: 3 (Correct!)
About the Author
Mr. Ng Yeo Heng has over a decade of experience in teaching upper primary Math and Science in local schools. He has a postgraduate diploma in education from NIE and has a wealth of experience in marking PSLE Science and Math papers. When not teaching or working on OwlSmart, he enjoys watching soccer and supports Liverpool football team.