What is Singapore Math?

In the most recent Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, Singapore ranked second in the world in fourth-grade math, just behind Hong Kong. The United States placed 11th. Singapore also has excelled on other international tests.

So just what is Singapore Math?  The program follows a concrete to representational to abstract approach to teaching mathematical concepts.  The Singapore Math method teaches students beyond rote memorization to really understand why 8 + 5 = 13 and how to visualize problems and how to formulate solutions.

Even though the Singapore method has been strongly supported by math experts and educational  researchers, no large urban or suburban school system in the United States has fully embraced it.  However, the number of schools that are integrating Singapore Math into their programs is steadily growing.  And while some of these schools are challenged by the implementation, there are success stories popping up all over the place with regard to scores.

For example, Montgomery County and Baltimore have tried the Singapore approach in selected schools. Sidwell Friends, a private school attended by President Obama’s daughters, uses pieces of it. Bruce-Monroe is the only D.C. public school to integrate it into its academic programs.  In a June 6 Washington Post article, the school’s instructional coach, Nuhad Jamal, referred to Singapore Math as “a strength of our school” despite their challenges implementing the program.  And recent test scores now confirm significant mathematics achievement.  In 2010, 40 of 172 students were proficient in mathematics. In 2011 almost 75 of 174 students were proficient. Every subgroup showed improvement. Math scores for students classified as Limited English Proficient jumped from 24.14% proficient in 2010 to 51.11% in 2011. Or an increase from 17 of 70 students in 2010 to 36 of 70 students in 2011.

Some school officials and teachers claim that the hardest part of introducing Singapore Math is communicating the new instructional method to parents.  It’s different from how they learned math, and it can be hard for them to help at home.  As with any educational program, students will see more success with strong parental involvement.  One resource that can help bridge the home-school gap with Singapore Math is The Parent Connection for Singapore Math by Sandra Chen.

If you are using Singapore Math in your school or with your child, let us know what you think about it.  We’d love to hear from you.

Schoodoodle.com has some great Singapore Math books to help reinforce the method in the classroom an at home.  Also, download a free introduction that explains the instructional strategy to learn more.

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