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Singapore is the top performing country for Math

The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a worldwide exam administered every three years that measures 15-year olds in 72 countries.

In the recent exam in 2015, which consists of about 540,000 students, Singapore emerged 1st in Math.

Source: OECD

Singapore Best in Math (based on world-wide report on 7th, 8th graders)

Singapore was named one of the top-performing countries in Math at the 7th and 8th grade levels in the recent TIMSS report. We compiled the highest average achievement scores in Math for both grades 7 and 8 among other participating countries such as Korea, Japan and Hong Kong.

Researchers note that home factors were strongly related to Math achievement and positive relationships were found between achievement and the presences of study aids in the house for the student’s own use.

Source: Boston College

Singapore teaching of Math is better

According to an Oxford study, it is discovered that children make more progress in math when teachers use Singapore-style methods, which focuses on mastering core principles.

Ideas are broken down into small steps, using real life objects to illustrate a point until learners are confident, before moving on to drawings and then concepts.

This is a departure from trendy methods (games and memorizing facts) which foster a shallow understanding of math.

Source: Daily Mail

Why Singapore Math might just be the better way
  1. Singapore students are the world’s Math leaders

    Singapore has consistently ranked among the top in the TIMSS and PISA. “mathematics in Singapore is not about knowing everything. It’s about thinking like a mathematician,” said Andreas Schleicher, head of the OECD’s education assessment programme.

  2. Singapore Math targets at imparting comprehensive knowledge to the students instead of just learning for a test

    In contrast to most common Math programs in the United States, Singapore Math devotes more time to fewer topics (approximately 13 to 15 concepts per grade level) but doing so in far greater depth. This is to ensure that children master the material through detailed instruction, questions, problem solving, and visual and hands-on aids like blocks, cards and bar charts. Ideally, they do not move on until they have thoroughly learned a topic – a crucial factor in its effectiveness.

  3. Singapore Math uses a visual approach to drive its success

    Singapore’s curriculum moves through a three-step learning process: concrete, pictorial, abstract. The “pictorial” phase builds a bridge between the concrete and abstract unlike the American Math programs where students are lost when making the jump from concrete (chips) to abstract (questions).

  4. Layered strategies build upon one another

    Under the Singapore’s curriculum, every skill set taught is a foundation for future lessons. These give students a solid Math foundation upon which to build increasingly complex skills, which makes it less likely that they will forget and have to be re-taught the same thing in later years.

  5. It aligns with Common Core State Standards

    For decades, efforts to improve Math skills have driven schools to embrace one Math program after another, abandoning a program when it does not work and moving on to something purportedly better.

    Common Core State Standards was then initiated in the United States to state the details of what K-12 students should know in Math at the end of each grade. They would look to the success of high-performing countries, including Singapore who is consistently at the top ratings of TIMSS. In fact, they have mirrored several Singaporean approaches, such as “a narrower focus with greater depth”.

  6. Studies show instant improvement

    It was proven that students were able to make substantial gains from Singapore Math.

    With Singapore Math, the pace can also accelerate by fourth and fifth grades, putting children as much as a year ahead of students in other Math programs as they grasp complex problems more quickly.

    Educators and parents has also often been described Singapore Math as a more balanced approach, melding old-fashioned algorithms with visual representations and critical thinking.

Source: The74, Financial Times, The New York Times

Success of Singapore Math
  1. An organising framework

    United States builds their framework on two lists of standards – one for content and one for process whereas Singapore’s guiding framework presents a balanced, integrated vision that connects and describes skills, concepts, processes, attitudes and metacognition.

  2. Alignment

    In Singapore, each element of the system – the framework, a common set of national standards, texts, tests, and teacher preparation programs is carefully aligned to clear and common goals.

  3. Focus

    Singapore focuses on far fewer lessons per grade level than U.S. textbooks do (42 lessons as opposed to 164) and thus resulted in much greater mathematical focus at each grade level.

  4. Multiple Models

    Singapore textbooks systematically provide students with multiple representations to build skills and conceptual understanding whereas most U.S. mathematics programs superficially jump around different concepts to teach a main topic. Singapore’s consistency in its Math structure is entirely missing in U.S. Math programs.

  5. Rich Problems

    Studies have shown that in Singapore Math questions, students are expected to complete multi-step problems applying a range of skills and concepts as compared to one-step exercises in the U.S. textbooks. It is agreed that higher-order questions support stronger mathematical development and develop stronger comprehension.

Source: Learning from Singapore Math by Steven Leinwand and Alan L. Ginsburg

Singapore come out top in PISA (again)

In the recent published findings of PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) 2012, Singapore students outperformed their peers in other countries once again and ranked amongst the top. The study highlighted Singapore as a high-performing education system where other education systems could learn from.

Singapore’s strong performance across both mathematics and Science literacy skills demonstrates that our students are well able to apply their learnt knowledge and skills to unfamiliar situations. With their outstanding performance, they showed that they are able to think both critically and creatively when faced with real-life situations. This shows that Singapore’s students are better equipped with real-life competencies and adept enough to face the challenges of a global age.

Image source: theguardian

Hear what US Teachers have to say about Singapore Math

Baldridge has designed a training program for elementary school Math teachers who want to use Singapore Math, prioritising on concepts they want their students to learn.

Math teacher Gertie Walls likes Singapore curriculum as it relies more on pictures than on words. She finds that it gives young students a chance to discover Math concepts. “For example, if we were working on combinations of six, there may be six balloons," she says. "But with those six balloons, one is green, five are yellow or they may have three of them to be large and three of them to be smaller or we may have one with a star on it. But you give the children an opportunity to verbalize whatever they saw. This brought in their writing skills. After we talk about all of them, we will write the numbers down - now this is three and two more - before we even tell them the plus sign, you know how to join things together."

Source: VOA News

Elements of Singapore method to try at home
  • Be a positive role model for Math. Never claim, “I was rubbish at Math,” because every child can be good at Math with self-confidence and support.
  • Encourage your child to demonstrate their understanding in a variety of ways, for example by explaining their thinking out loud, drawing a picture or building a physical model.
  • Praise children for effort, explanations and perseverance in problem-solving rather than getting the answers right. Build confidence by viewing mistakes as valuable to learning.
  • Make mats relevant by turning everyday life into a mathematical conversation. For example, “How many parked cars will we pass on the way to school?”
  • Look for multiple ways to solve a problem. Harness creativity rather than insist, “You should do it this way because that’s how I was taught.” Discuss with your child which method they prefer and why.

Source: Tips by Kate Moore, of Maths – No Problem!, a leading provider of Singapore Math textbooks and training in the UK

Top ranking in TIMSS since the 1995

Singapore has consistently been among the top ranking countries in TIMSS (Trends in International mathematics and Science Study) since 1995.

TIMSS is conducted once every four years by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement, the Trends in International mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) compares the mathematics and Science achievement of 4th and 8th-grade students in the United States to their counterparts in other countries.

Image source: Brookings

Why Singapore’s kids are so good at Math?

In Singapore, diligence is prized over talent. It is a switch from an ability-based model of individualised learning, to a model which says that all children are capable of anything, depending on how it is presented to them and the effort which they put into learning it.

Accordingly, the Asian approach to Math also favours teaching the class as a whole rather than breaking the class into smaller groups of different abilities to work through exercises. The whole-class approach allows the teacher to spot weaknesses and intervene swiftly if a child needs help.

Source: Financial Times