Math in Focus: The Singapore Approach
WHAT IS MATH IN FOCUS BASED ON?
The country of Singapore has made international headlines because of their mathematics performance on international comparison tests such as the Trends in Mathematics and Science Study. Since 1995, Singapore has scored the highest and remained at the top, setting the standard for world class achievement.
While the United States improved each year we took the test, in 2007 we scored 11th behind countries like Japan, Singapore, Kazakhstan, Latvia and Netherlands. Also, while 41% of Singapore’s 4th grade students performed at the Advanced level, only 10% of American students performed at that level. American students need to be able to match the educational achievement of any country in the world to be competitive.
What is Singapore doing differently than the United States? Well, they weren’t always at the top.
After gaining independence from Great Britain in the 1960’s, Singapore’s Ministry of Education searched the world for the best practices in teaching children mathematics. They created a national curriculum and started improving their teaching of mathematics. As a result, for the last 12 years they have remained a top-performing country at 4th and 8th grade.
Math in Focus is Singapore Math for U.S. classrooms.
HOW DOES MATH IN FOCUS TIE INTO MISSOURI STANDARDS IN MATH?
Math in Focus is an excellent match for the new Common Core State Standards which Missouri plans to adopt in 2013-2014. In fact, the writers of the Common Core State Standards used the Math in Focus curriculum as a model. Math in Focus initiates the steps in providing our young people with a high-quality education as experienced in Singapore and shown through successes such as repeated high ranking on the international tests.
WHAT ARE THE BASICS OF MATH IN FOCUS?
Math in Focus has unique features, which we think will enable our students to have 21st century skills and present them with opportunities on a global scale.
1. The program teaches to mastery and with great depth. It teaches both understanding and skills…the WHY and the HOW behind the math.
2. It is Concrete Pictorial and Abstract Continual Assessment.
How do students learn both to understand and to become fluent with math concepts and skills? Well, each lesson is constructed so that students first use a concrete example. A concrete example, such as a balance, is then connected to a visual model. Then, the visual model is connected to the way we write the same problem…abstractly, using numbers and symbols.
3. It includes Model Drawing through the grades.
Word problems and problem solving are part of the program beginning in kindergarten. Starting in 2nd grade, students are introduced to a new visual model to solve word problems. The bar model is a useful visual tool to solve the problem.
It starts out simple but soon students use these models to solve more complicated problems such as: Jane has 145 marbles and Lee has 35 fewer. How many do they have altogether? By 5th grade, students use these models to solve problems such as: A tie costs three times more than a belt. If four belts and five ties cost $247, how much does a tie cost? (Student Book 5A p104)
In the Singapore program, students are encouraged to solve complex problems even at young ages. These bar models enable students to visualize abstract math relationships through pictorial representations that they can apply in many other areas such as measurement, fractions, percentages, etc.
MATH IN FOCUS TEACHING PROGRESSION
• Developing Early Number Sense
• Number Bonds
• Numbers Greater than 10
• Place Value
HOW CAN I HELP MY STUDENT AT HOME?
Each student will have their own consumable Workbook (A & B) that will/might/sometimes come home with pages assigned for homework. The Workbook pages are directly related to the concept learned in the classroom over the last 1-3 days. Through continual assessment, teachers will have observed students working independently in class before assigning related practice pages as homework.
So, to best help your student maintain independence, resist the urge to “show” them how to do the math. Instead, encourage them to look at a sample problem and ask questions such as, “What do you remember from class?” or “What do you think this means….?” Your support and positive attitudes towards math go a long way to help your child succeed in math class.
There’s also a great website that can provide more information for parents - http://www.greatsource.com/singaporemath/