The Head of School at Trafalgar Castle School in Whitby, Ontario explains why his school adopted Math from Singapore and how it differs from other curricula:

We introduced Singapore Math to our school three years ago after researching a number of programs and determining that this method had the best achievement results internationally.

Singapore Math deliberately slows down the teaching of math, taking more time to ensure students grasp each concept before moving on. For example, students might spend two weeks on multiplying fractions, instead of spending a day or two and then coming back to it later.

Students use visuals aids such as bars and blocks before they start writing equations with “x” and “y,” so they achieve a deeper grasp of the actions they perform. This visualization is not deployed nearly as much in Canadian classrooms. In most settings, you would see a concrete-abstract strategy whereby multiplication would use physical objects then shift to the abstraction of lining up numbers in a multiplication equation. Singapore Math introduces a middle step between the concrete and abstract called the pictorial approach. The students draw a diagram of the concepts going on. This extends to diagraming word problems on paper rather than the often frustrating scenario of trying to picture a problem in their heads.

One happy result of all this is that when students reach algebra, they’ve already met the core concepts pictorially; indeed in most cases students in grade 6 are able to understand algebraic concepts that normally wouldn’t be grasped until mid-way through grade 8.

North Cross School is the first school in the Roanoke Valley (Virginia) to fully implement the Singapore Math® curriculum.

[Editor's Note: Over the past several years, I've had the honor of helping St. Anne’s-Belfield School with its Singapore Math adoption. I'm delighted that Beth Curran was able to take her experiences and successfully train teachers at North Cross School. Congratulations, Beth!]Beth Curran is the Mathematics Department Chair in the lower school at St. Anne’s-Belfield in Charlottesville and led the training at North Cross School. When asked about their conversion to Singapore Math she said “during our first year of implementation our students were saying ‘I understand math now.’ One of our second grade teachers commented, ‘At this point in the year (first trimester), I have never had students with such a solid understanding of place value.’ Upon conclusion of our first year, our math team felt that our students’ problem solving skills made huge leaps. We also noticed that students were persevering through difficult problems that in the past (or even the beginning of the year) they would have given up on. We didn’t teach perseverance, necessarily, but concluded that because students were learning and practicing skills to mastery that it equipped them with the tools to tackle challenging problems. They always had a place to start.”

North Cross Lower School Director, Deborah Jessee, believes that “a strong education in lower school builds a foundation of lifelong learning. It lays the pathways, creates excitement, and energizes students for the future. Singapore Math is a great way to enhance our lower school academic program and teach children not to be intimidated by new concepts and that it’s okay to explore other ways of learning. They learn to not be intimidated by a complex problem. When a student understands how to break down a problem and can figure out how to solve it, that academic skill translates well to other subjects and helps them prepare for ACT and SAT testing down the road.

Learning Singapore Math in Henderson County (Kentucky) first took hard work by teachers; previous math approach “made cooks…this makes chefs.”

At the heart of the Singaporean approach to math is problem solving. This math curriculum doesn’t focus as much on memorizing procedures, but understanding numbers and how they interact, officials said.It’s the how and the why, [third-grade teacher Evelyn] Cummings said.Educators said this isn’t how mathematics has been taught in the United States.

“Before I would teach my students a process, instead of problem solving. Now, we’re teaching these kids to be problem-solvers,” Cummings said.

In a contribution to the Washington Post, Dominic Basulto says that Maryam Mirzakhani could do for mathematics what astronaut Sally Ride did for space travel: give young girls a role model for someone they’d like to be when they grow up. The 37-year-old Iranian-born Mirzakhani, a professor of mathematics at Stanford, has been awarded the 2014 Fields Medal–the most prestigious honor in mathematics.

Here is a New York Times article on Mirzakhani’s award.

Stanford University research funded by the National Institutes of Health explains how the brain reorganizes itself as kids learn math.

Healthy children start making that switch between counting to what’s called fact retrieval when they’re 8 years old to 9 years old, when they’re still working on fundamental addition and subtraction. How well kids make that shift to memory-based problem-solving is known to predict their ultimate math achievement.

“Experience really does matter,” said Dr. Kathy Mann Koepke of the National Institutes of Health, which funded the research.

* I’ll share more about what these stellar students achieved in mathematics in coming weeks!*

*What would you are say the biggest 10 things to consider when using/implementing a Singapore Math curriculum?*

Here’s my response. Did I miss anything?

1. **This isn’t the math most of us were raised on**. It looks different and teachers cannot rely on their knowledge of themselves as elementary students. As such, the Teacher’s Guide is your math bible. You don’t have to read the lessons out loud as you teach, but you need to follow the sequence and pedagogy.

**2. And that pedagogy includes Concrete, Pictorial AND Abstract**. Teachers are usually darned good at the abstract, but above grade 2, not so hot with the concrete and pictorial. Yes, I know your students can solve the 3rd grade word problems without the pictorial bar model, but if you don’t teach the bar model with content they know, you certainly can’t do it with content they don’t know.

**3. Placement tests assess content knowledge. **Keep in mind that a score below 80% on the Singaporemath.com Placement tests **does no**t mean a student is not bright or capable – it does mean that they haven’t been taught the content **yet**. The Primary Mathematics materials are generally one year ahead of current U.S. materials and even bright students can’t just skip a year of content and expect to be successful.

**4. When teaching Concretely, the SmartBoard is not enough.** Students must actually use the manipulatives. Yes they can work with partners, but students must use them, not just the teacher. Buy or make place value disks for whole numbers and decimals if you want your students to understand the content.

**5. The equations are written horizontally to de-emphasize the process** (that algorithm you’re so good at!) and focus on Number Sense. These mental math strategies are challenging for teachers as they were usually taught procedures only. Expect to practice the strategies yourself. Embrace the mental math!

**6. Textbooks are not a curriculum.** The teacher is the most important component of the curriculum. If you don’t understand the math in a lesson, how will the students? Read the Teacher’s Guide and prepare lessons. (See #1 – and below)

**7. Get your own copy of the workbooks and work every problem** as you expect the students to work them. It’s true that the Teacher’s Guides have the answers. You need the solutions to know if a student’s thought process is on target. In Singapore, 50% of elementary teachers have a 2 year degree – they aren’t math specialists either! The textbooks are designed to help teach teachers the math they need to know. (Same with any placement test you give: you work the problems first.)

**8. Follow the maxim: Go slow to go fast.** All teachers do not have to be on the exact same lesson at the exact same time. Sometimes you need to slow down and ensure that your students are understanding the content. In grades 2-4 it seems as though it takes f o r e v e r to get through the “A” books. Then applying the skills mastered in the “B” books is a breeze. (In Kindergarten and Grade 1, the “B” book will slow students down. In Grade 5, the books seem more evenly paced) Knowing what your students know and can do means you must be constantly informally assessing your students.

**9. Rethink your Home Enjoyment**. One big difference between the Singaporean and U.S. cultures is on the emphasis of mastering basic facts. Parents in Singapore believe it’s their job to do this. In the U.S.? Well it’s the school’s. Just as we expect students to read very night to improve their reading fluency, so too should they practice math facts every night to improve fact fluency.

**10. This isn’t your parents math either!** (See #1) Many schools hold a Singapore Math night to introduce the new curriculum to the parents. Share with parents how the curriculum differs from what they’ve seen before, samples of the materials, some strategies, a couple of word problems and you’ll fend off weeks of questions and email.

Listed below are some **recent additions. **I paid for and personally played with all of these in order to offer my candid assessment of each.

You can find these and more Singapore Math-related apps on the Singapore Math® iPad Apps page, which is among the most frequently visited on this site.

*Note: I didn’t include the online version of Discovering Mathematics textbooks as they are designed to support the books only.*

**Archimedes Roost – $**2.99

Kindergarten app based on Singapore Number Bonds and Montessori using parts and wholes and Montessori bead chain and strip board manipulatives. Includes addition and subtraction within 20. Fully narrated for non-readers.

*Opinion? Great graphics and engaging activities. Good number bond and missing addend problems. This is worth $2.99.*

** **** Maths Facts** – $0.99

Four choices: Number Bonds and Fact Families practice to Ten, Addition & Subtraction to Ten. No ability to differentiate or make it more difficult. Addition & Subtraction is find the sum or difference only, no missing addends.

*Opinion? Simple and minimal levels. Very basic, froze a couple of times, but only 99¢.*

** Let’s Count **- Free

For ages 3-6, this is a very basic app with four options. Order quantities of jelly beans from least to greatest, count and label bars to ten, Count beans to ten, match numbers.

*Opinion? Well, it’s free and doesn’t take up much memory.*

Practice Math with Robin and Dob – $2.99

Master addition and subtraction with math whizzes Robin and Dob. 10 levels of each, addition & subtraction, no customizing. The dog pops up when you’ve taken too long and offers help in the form of an abacus, tens and ones place value chart with apples or the problem stacked instead of horizontal. Adorable!

*Opinion? While the game is simple and has minimal levels, the basic practice is solid (and adorable!). This is worth $2.99.*

** Place Value Cards ****Cards** – $0.99 each

A number is given and you must show it two different ways, for example if 3 tens and 6 ones is given, you could also make 36 with 2 tens and 16 ones.

- Level 1: Tens and Ones
- Level 2: Hundreds, Tens, and One
- Level 3: Thousands, Hundreds, Tens and Ones
- Level 4: Hundreds, Tens, Ones, and Tenths
- Level 5: Tens, Ones, Tenths, and Hundredths

** Number Bond Cards** – $0.99 each

- Level 1: Ten Frames and
- Level 2: Number Bonds with missing whole
- Level 3: Number Bonds with missing part

*Opinion? Both of these apps are very simple and have minimal levels. If your child needs this targeted practice you could spend the 99¢.*

** Crackers and Goo – **$2.99

Crackers and Goo uses patterns to teach children to identify patterns and see parts of wholes. Flying crackers need to be dragged down to complete the problems. Starts very basic and finishes with rounding then multiplying 898, 899, 900. Yikes! Mental math strategies are explained.

16 levels with 5 mini-levels on each

- Grades K-1: game levels 1-4
- Grades 2-3: game levels 5 – 7
- Grades 4-5: game levels 8 – 11
- Grades 5 and up: game levels 12 – 16

*Opinion? Great, if repetitive, practice. Turn the volume down on the annoying music. I can’t see kids playing this for long, but it is more of a “game” than typical flash cards. I dig this app, but not sure about young students.*

** Visual Word Problems ** – $4.99

Designed to help 1st and 2nd grade school children to visualize, understand and solve basic addition & subtraction word problems, this is a guided, easy to use app for early learners. I really like how prompted the steps are to maneuver through the program and that the default option is to have the app read the problems aloud. The animated word problems that use actual pictures of cows, oranges and apples are fabulous. They are laid out as a definite precursor to the bar modeling that begins in grade 3.

*Opinion? Worth the $4.99, but this is not a game. If you would like your child working some basic addition & subtraction word problems, here’s your app.*

** Xyla and Yabu ** – $0.99

Help Xyla and Yabu trade gems back and forth by learning to add and subtract with number bonds. Use the relative sizes of number bond bars representing parts and wholes to develop number sense while solving word problems. Understand and become automatic at using tens, doubles, and other recurring patterns with numbers.

Each number bond is presented in the context of a word problem. After mastering sums up to 20 (14 activities), kids explore similar patterns with sums up to 100 (13 activities), for 10 levels in all. There is no option to have the app read the problems aloud. In numbers to 20, there is a picture and a bar hint, in numbers to 100, just some bar hints. After the beginning levels, three possible answers are given.

*Opinion? Best 99¢ you can spend on a word problem app for grades 1-2 working with parts and wholes to 100. Of course, Thinking Blocks is still free.*

** Math Master Bingo **- Free to download, 99*¢* in-app purchase for unlimited play.

Practice your four operations with Bingo. Choose the operands rang and the operation. (% is used for ÷). Answer questions until you get five in a row.Every 5 problems, it asks you to upgrade. Has two buttons on homescreen to send you to Facebook, only one for Twitter

*Opinion? Constantly asks to post to Facebook, I’d pass.*

** Jingle’s Puzzle** – $1.99

For grades 3-6, the website claims this app is designed Singapore primary school’s mathematics model methods. Good luck with that. This is a problem-solving, logic game. Sums are listed on teh left and top of an array and some of the squares are filled in. Students find the pattern and complete the grid.

*Opinion? I think the words of the single reviewer say it best: “VERY confusing…Not for young child…There is NO app support. I want a refund.”*

** Math Olympiad **- Free for first 6 problems, then $15.99 per level to unlock.

Designed for 8-12 year olds, this app has official competition questions from the Asia Pacific Mathematical Olympiad for Primary Schools. And the 6 problems that are included are exactly the types of problems seen on the U.S. version of the Math Olympiads for Elementary & Middle Schools.

*Opinion? This might be a great purchase for Math Olympiad teams looking for new problems. The levels are less expensive than the books in the MOEMS store.*

** Hey Math from Singapore **- Subscriptions from $0.99

Videos and practice with multiple levels from Singapore’s #1 online learning site. Hey Math! is an official Partner of the Academy of Singapore Teachers. They also make Factorama – which my 17 year old son loves to challenge me on.

*Opinion? This is a very good iPad version of the online site. The videos are very directed and the practice is like an online worksheet. *

** Smartest Singapore **- Free

Online learning game for Singapore primary school children. Students play in 60 second speed challenges in languages, mathematics and general knowledge. There is no way I could see to customise this app to focus on mathematics. You need to choose a Singapore primary school in order to register and there is no option for “other” or “homeschool”. If you’d like to study up on topics, there is an option. Choose from activities, animals, food, Geography, Plants, the MRT (subway in Singapore, Singapore history & famous people or a language. you never know when the Chinese word for bricklayer may come in handy.

*Opinion? Pass. Unless you want your child deciding if a picture is of Chimgan Mountain in Uzbekistan or Global Geoparak in Hong Kong. Game portion works about 50% of the time.*

**Math Mastery! **- Free

Secondary and Middle school topics. Supports Ace-Learning.com, who also declares itself the “leading online Mathematics E-Learning system in Singapore”. Must be a registered user of Ace Learning to use.

*Opinion? No need to download unless you already subscribe to Ace Learning.*

** Math Exam Revision Kit **- Free

Also by ACE-Learning Systems and so must be registered to get the full app. Secondary and Middle school topics including notes, questions with guided solutions and more practice questions.

*Opinion? No need to download unless you already subscribe to Ace Learning.*

** Matholia iMath tools & Essential Practice** – Free to download, paid subscription to access

For grades 1-6, Matholia is an another online mathematics learning portal providing pupils, teachers and parents with dedicated content based on the latest primary maths syllabus from the Singapore Ministry of Education – or you could get the U.S. version. Try the program free for 7 days with a code, then you must subscribe to continue. Ther are practice learn and games option available on the desktop version as well as Singapore math tools and virtual manipulatives for differentiated interaction.

*Opinion? No need to download unless you already subscribe to Matholia.*

** Mathematical Quickies & Trickies** -$9.99

Designed for students in grades 6 and up, this is an ipad version of a book of math and math puzzlers. From the Amazon description:

contains more than 300 non-routine problems to enhance students’ problem-solving skills…Mathematical Quickies & TrickiesMathematical Quickies & Trickieswould appeal primarily to students and teachers looking for some fertile trick and tricky questions; mathletes preparing for local and regional contests and competitions; problem solvers longing to be challenged by questions whose obvious solutions are never the correct ones for what offhand appears to be true is false.

** More Mathematical Quickies & Trickies **- $9.99

*Opinion? Cheaper than the books. *

** 2048 SG Army ** – Free

Version of 2048 in which you match tiles to earn your way through the Singapore Armed Forces

*Opinion? Probably not for your typical child. I made it through the ranks to Staff Sargent through sheer luck. Stick with the regular numbers version.*

Here are the just-released Fall 2014 dates for my BER seminars *“How to Use the Best Strategies from Singapore Mathematics to Strengthen your Math Instruction*” and *“Boost Students’ Math Problem Solving Skills Using Singapore Model Drawing” *

“*Boost Students’ Math Problem Solving Skills Using Singapore Model Drawing”* (BER)

- Nov. 3 – Burlington, VT
- Nov. 4 – Manchester, NH
- Nov. 5 – Boston, MA
- Nov. 6 – Long Island, NY
- Nov. 7 – Houston, TX

A whole day of problem solving with Singapore Bar Modeling PLUS that handbook for your own home enjoyment! (- with the answers and fully worked solutions!)

——————————————————————————————————————————–

*“How to Use the Best Strategies From Singapore Mathematics to Strengthen Your Math Instruction”* (BER) – ~~I’ll update this post when the registrations are available.~~ UPDATED 8/16/2014

- Nov. 17 – Peoria, IL
- Nov. 18 – Chicago, IL
- Nov. 19 – Dallas, TX
- Nov. 20 – San Jose, CA
- Nov. 21 – Pasadena, CA

*2015 dates – I’ll update this post with links when the registrations are available. *

This overview of Singapore Math® strategies will put your students on the road to success with number sense, computation and problem solving. (Plus you a get a handy-dandy handbook!)

Math in Focus is adapted from Singapore’s My Pals are Here Maths for the North American market.

Previously, most of Seattle’s schools 59 elementary schools had used Everyday Mathematics.

A Math Adoption Committee (MAC) reviewed many options and recommended the adoption of enVision Math from Pearson.

The Committee discounted Math in Focus because it wasn’t aligned to the Common Core State Standards and had a higher cost than enVision.

For many years, a community-wide, grass roots coalition has pushed for consideration of Singapore Math® materials in Seattle. One Seattle school, Seattle’s Schmitz Park Elementary, has successfully used Primary Mathematics under a waiver of District requirements for many years.

On June 4, several school board members justified their support for Math in Focus rather than enVision by citing:

- the program’s clarity and rigor,
- how its visual approach works for struggling readers and English language learners,
- backing from teachers and the community, and
- their view that Math in Focus was worth the higher price.

The Board considered, but rejected, a proposal for a dual adoption of both enVision and Math in Focus. Ultimately, the Board voted to adopt Math in Focus on a 4-3 vote.

Interested in reading or hearing/watching more? Here are some links to coverage of the Seattle School Board’s decision:

- KUOW.org: In Surprise Move, Seattle Schools Approve ‘Singapore Math’ (includes audio story)
- Melissa Westbrook’s Seattle Schools Community Forum: Melissa live blogged during the June 4 meeting and has plenty of post adoption news.
- Seattle Times: Seattle School Board must find extra cash after it picks pricier textbook
- The Seattle School Board’s website includes links to the June 4 agenda and a video archive of past School Board Meetings hosted on the Seattle Channel.

The paper cited a report by the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority that compared the Singapore and Australian curriculums. It found Singapore schools spent about twice as much time on basic operations and geometry in the first few years of school and had a greater focus on problem solving (from “A lesson learnt…” see below)

*The Australian* then reports that Scholastic Australia will be publishing a new set of textbooks based on the Singapore model that, “enable children to gain a deeper and better understanding of mathematical content and ways of working.”

Here is an article and an editorial from *The Australian*:

*The Australian*, April 12, 2014:

Schools in Australia will be able to teach maths Singapore-style with the release next month of primary textbooks that set out the teaching methods responsible for taking Singaporean students to the top of international tests.

In an editorial on April 15, 2014, *The Australian* was encouraged by the forthcoming release of new textbooks based on the Singapore model. To be published by Scholastic Australia, the texts will be linked to the Australian curriculum and endorsed by the Singapore Ministry of Education.

Primary MathematicsCommon Core Edition maintains the proven Singapore approach to teaching and learning mathematics, with a focus on the Concrete to Pictorial to Abstract (CPA) method and use of strategies including bar modeling.We are currently accepting pre-orders for

Primary MathematicsCommon Core Edition andEarlybird KindergartenCommon Core Edition. Materials will be available to ship starting in mid July 2014. We will arrange the delivery for a time convenient to your school.

Want more information? Schools can request a price list, review sample chapters, and get info on pre-ordering materials with this form.

Dimensions Math Common Core is also available for grades 7 & 8.

Shortly after the results of the PISA exam were announced in December, BBC Skillwise ran a piece that explained some of the features of math in Singapore:

Singapore teaches maths better than most countries including the UK, according to international rankings for secondary pupils.

The difference starts at an early age.

There are many reasons but one key factor is its step-by-step approach that can be used at home or in the classroom.

From the Calgary Herald, February 19, 2014: Sliding scores in math, science, literacy spark alarm.

Canada’s former deputy prime minister, John Manley, spoke at a symposium focused on Alberta’s ongoing Inspiring Education during the Sochi Winter Olympics. Manley, who now serves as president and CEO of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, asked:

“How can we be satisfied with 13th place in math when we’re not satisfied with second place in hockey?”

The Toronto Star reports that students at the Trafalgar Castle School in Whitby, Ontario, are learning math the Singapore way.

Headmaster Adam de Pencier is pursuing the “world best” curriculum by cherry-picking the leading teaching methods from around the globe:

“If we believe curriculum drives a school, shouldn’t we try to choose the best curriculum, whether it’s from Whitby, Walla Walla, or Wellington?” asked de Pencier, who had math teacher Jessica Semkin train in Singapore math last summer.

Semkin said the Singapore approach “slows down the pace of learning to make sure there is a mastery of skills. With Singapore math, we spent about two weeks on multiplying fractions, instead of a day or two, and then coming back to it later.”

Nine years ago, Gill St. Bernard School piloted the Singapore Math® curriculum in second grade. It quickly expanded; by 2005, the curriculum was in use throughout the Lower and Middle school.

When Lower School Director Peggy Campbell-Rush visited Singapore in 2012, she met Yeap Ban Har, Ph.D, an internationally recognized Singapore math leader. On April 16, 2014, Dr. Ban Har visited Gill St. Bernard School to conduct professional development for the school’s K-6 teachers.

Finally, an OPINION piece that urges consideration of a more rigorous math curricula such as that used in Singapore:

A February 3, 2014, New York Post Opinion piece by Naomi Schaefer Riley, includes this revelation:

The education establishment frowns on anything so simple as adopting the methods of high-performing countries…[I]t insists we spend decades and millions of dollars to evaluate each one.