Polls have shown that math is considered the most challenging subject for students of all ages to grasp. It is not intuitive, and many teachers simply don’t have a knack for teaching it to others. Considered a “cumulative discipline,” math is learned by building on things learned before. It’s like a pyramid in that regard, and the inherent problem is that if students don’t understand a single foundational concept, they won’t understand anything taught after that point.
That’s where Singapore Math comes to the rescue! Originated in the US, the term Singapore Math refers to an innovative, highly effective teaching method developed in the 1980s in the country of Singapore. The system serves as the foundation of that country’s national curriculum for classrooms. It’s proven to be a viable alternative to traditional methods of teaching mathematical concepts. Instead of the dull rote learning process used in American schools, Singapore Math relies on an integrative approach called Concrete Pictorial Abstract (CPA).
What is Singapore Math’s Concrete Pictorial Abstract?
Developed by psychologist and educator Jerome Bruner, the research-based pedagogy of Concrete Pictorial Abstract was founded on his belief that “students can create their own knowledge.” Bruner contended that young children are more than capable of learning math concepts as long as a suitable teaching methodology is established. His immersive method allows for slow, methodical progression from tangible ideas into more abstract ones. This helps students achieve mastery through the “intentional sequencing of concepts.”
At the beginning of the Concrete stage, students gain hands-on experience using physical objects such as dies and cones. In the Pictorial stage, they practice image-based thinking using virtual representations or diagrams to model problems and solutions. Mastering these two stages empowers students to tackle problems in the later Abstract stage, where they use signs, numbers, and symbols. These principles are incorporated into the Singapore Math framework to amazing effect!
How Singapore Math Helps Students Connect to Math
In US schools, math is taught through boring examples. The teacher stands at the whiteboard, explains a concept using a marker, provides an example, then gives students a problem to solve using the example as a reference. Then the process repeats and the class as a whole is expected to advance to the next concept. The whole system is geared towards memorization through written repetition.
But this approach is critically flawed. When students fall even a little bit behind, things get harder and harder until they feel so lost and hopeless that they give up. Suddenly (and unsurprisingly) they say they “don’t understand” math and thus dislike it. But many also come to believe it’s their fault that they don’t “get it.” This can be a severe blow to a student’s self-confidence, turning them off of math forever.
Singapore Math takes a different attitude, one aimed at building confidence by instilling a deep understanding of core concepts. A distinct characteristic of Singapore Math is its “spiral curriculum.”
As noted, math is a cumulative discipline where topics get progressively more difficult and complex as they build on blocks of previous knowledge. But what if that prior knowledge is lacking or flawed? Then the whole thing collapses like a flimsy house of cards.
With Singapore Math, teachers make sure the foundation is firm. That’s accomplished by revisiting and reinforcing previously covered material, ensuring those topics are fully understood while still striving forward!
Singapore Math’s Proven Success Record
For kids learning math via traditional methods, it’s no wonder most hate the subject! It’s also regrettable since math is a vital academic topic getting sidelined across the nation simply because our school systems fail to incorporate a suitable approach. Instead of trying something different, they insist on using antiqued techniques despite ample evidence that those methods don’t work. Our children deserve better.
We can quickly gauge the success of the Singapore Math curriculum objectively. According to the annual Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, Singapore students consistently score off-the-charts, dominating global top ranks. For instance, an astonishing 54% of primary students meet an “advanced benchmark in mathematics” compared to the world median of 7%.
As Singapore Ministry of Education assistant director Dr. Ridzuan Abdul Rahim puts it, the key to their students’ phenomenal success is simple: “To do this, we emphasize student understanding of concepts and proficiencies in mathematical skills and processes.” It should come as no surprise, then, that countries around the world are starting to adopt the Singapore style.
But what happens to students attending schools that aren’t using this innovative method? They deserve the advantage of getting to try Singapore Math’s revolutionary approach, too! Luckily, there’s hope, but it comes through alternative routes. One of the best alternative ways to get your student the help they deserve is through private group tutoring. Group tutoring is more fun and more affordable than standard one-on-one lessons. It’s also very easy to get started, using online educational resources like Monster Education, which offers accessible Singapore Math online tutoring to students around the country!