News / USA

Singapore Math Adds Up for US Teachers

Teaching fewer basics in a more indepth way, Singapore method encourages young minds to think mathematically

Scott Baldridge with a group of  elementary school math teachers during a training session.
Scott Baldridge with a group of elementary school math teachers during a training session.

Multimedia

Audio
TEXT SIZE - +
Faiza Elmasry

While most American students are on their summer vacations, many teachers are busy attending training programs and getting ready for the coming school year.

One group of elementary school math teachers gathered recently in Baker, Louisiana to learn more about Singapore Math, a curriculum they have recently begun to teach.

Indepth approach

Singapore Math is a curriculum modeled on the way math is taught in Singapore.

"It's a curriculum that helped Singapore math students skyrocket to number one by the 1990s and that's where they've stayed ever since," says Scott Baldridge, an expert on this approach.

Teachers measure the distance of five steps during a Singapore Math training session.
Teachers measure the distance of five steps during a Singapore Math training session.

Baldridge has designed a training program for elementary school math teachers who want to use it.

He says Singapore used to import all of its mathematics textbooks from other nations. But in 1980, they started to develop their own math curriculum. Baldridge explains that they prioritized the concepts they wanted their students to learn.

"They don't try to tackle 50 topics in a year," he says. "They just try to tackle 14 topics, and do those 14 topics really well."

Different stages

Each of those topics - from adding and subtracting to fractions and decimals - is approached in three different stages.

"The first stage, which is kind of concrete, they try to do something where there is some measurement involved They may have the kids go around measuring doorways, windows, things like that or they are going to use something like money, actual cash," says Baldridge. "The second stage is pictorial. So we convert the actual cash into pictures of coins. In the final stage, they use the pictorial representations to explain the mathematics, like when we add 313 plus 516. We have a step-by-step procedure we follow."

Graduate student Simon Pfeil demonstrates a bar model solution to fourth grade teacher Patricia Boyd.
Graduate student Simon Pfeil demonstrates a bar model solution to fourth grade teacher Patricia Boyd.

Math teacher Gertie Walls started teaching Singapore Math to her students a couple of years ago. She's been an elementary school math teacher for almost 30 years, and says introducing this new curriculum has been an exciting experience.

"In the past, I was so accustomed to teaching math the traditional way and now with the way it's introduced, I can see it," she says. "And I can get the children to see it better."

Pictures rather than words

What Walls likes about the curriculum is that it relies more on pictures than on words.

She finds it gives young students a chance to discover - rather than be taught - math concepts. In the process, they learn to think mathematically.

"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."

Peter Gaughan demonstrates a fluency exercise during a Singapore math training session.
Peter Gaughan demonstrates a fluency exercise during a Singapore math training session.

Walls was one of 32 educators attending the Singapore Math training program in Baker, Louisiana. The program's coordinator, Johnette Roberts, says teachers are evaluated before and after taking the summer professional development classes. Trainers continue working with the teachers after they return to their classrooms.

"Sometimes we're providing demonstration lessons, assisting the students," says Roberts. "We also have graduate students who participate in the training with the teachers. The graduate students come into the classrooms and work along with the teachers and students as well. All of these graduate students are working on their PhD in mathematics."

Singapore Math expert Baldridge says this curriculum, which was introduced to the U.S. through the home school market, is beginning to catch on in schools across the country.

By intensively training more teachers, he says, he hopes more students will get a chance to experience this new approach to learning math.  

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid