The Impact of Singapore Math at MPA

[Note: I’ve enjoyed working with Mounds Park Academy (MPA) in Saint Paul, Minnesota, since 2014. For the last three years, MPA has generously hosted our annual Jumpstart Your Singapore Math Instruction workshops.]
Renee Wright

I was thrilled to read a January 9, 2020, blog post, “The Impact of Singapore Math at MPA,” written by Lower School Director Renee Wright. It is a brief, but thorough, overview that anyone considering a Singapore program should read.

Renee recounts some of the many reasons the school chose to adopt a Singapore program in kindergarten through fifth grade six years ago, including:

Singapore Math meets the needs of all learners, provides extra practice and support for students when necessary, and is inherently challenging for the advanced math student.

To illustrate her point, Renee invites readers to consider a word problem assigned to fourth graders:

Mrs. Wright, Dr. Hudson, and Ms. Tesdahl all wrapped lots of presents over the holidays. Mrs. Wright wrapped four times as many as Dr. Hudson (remember, she has grandchildren!), and Ms. Tesdahl wrapped 3 more than half as many as Mrs. Wright. Together they wrapped 31 presents. How many presents did Dr. Hudson wrap?

She notes that this is a challenging problem for Lower School students and maybe even readers. But:

Believe it or not, fourth-graders at Mounds Park Academy approached this problem with confidence and were successful in finding the solution.

Renee includes data to document student success:

We can carefully examine the longitudinal data and impact of Singapore Math. One way is to review ACT Aspire assessment data collected over the past several years to determine if our students’ scores have shown improvement. Our student data has been compared to national percentiles and independent school benchmarks and it shows that our students have made steady gains in math concepts and usage.

She also includes anecdotal evidence from several teachers, including: Renette Stinson and Shelley Steingraeber (third grade); Deedee Stacy and Yamini Kimmerle (fourth grade); and Chris Peterson (fifth grade). Deedee and Yamini said:

Singapore Math is designed to give students an extremely well developed mathematical foundation, and to challenge them daily to apply mathematical concepts in new situations. Our students at MPA love to learn, and Singapore Math makes that happen!

And what did students say?

…third graders [said] that Singapore Math is challenging, but fun! One student identified the mental math emphasis as something that helps him use math every single day. Another student said she used to hate math but now she loves it because Singapore Math makes sense.

Finally, Renee offers her reflections:

Today, as an administrator looking at the data, hearing from the teachers, and feeling the enthusiasm for math from our students, I know that adopting Singapore Math was the right decision. It has served our students well and is aligned with the college preparatory nature and foundational mission of our school. I am so proud of the time, attention, and effort our teachers have put into teaching the Singapore curriculum. I acknowledge and celebrate the math success our students have had daily in the classroom due to the Singapore Math curriculum and feel confident they are ready for their future journey of higher level math.

Ask the Experts: What’s the best way to organize my math manipulatives?

The answer to this question is complicated. So much of how to organize materials is dependent upon personal preference with procedures and arrangement within your classroom. One thing that I can say is true in all cases is that they DO NOT belong in the closet!

I highly recommend that you dedicate a shelf or area of your classroom to math materials. It’s equally important for students to choose the most appropriate tool, as it is for them to use them. Having materials out for students at all times will allow for that.

One of the joys of my job is that I get to visit schools and classrooms across the country. So, I will share with you some organizational tips that I have gathered from my journeys.

There are three schools of thought (no pun intended) when it comes to organizing manipulatives; individual kits, group kits or community tubs. You may find it helpful to use a combination of the three, depending on the item.

I’ll mention a couple of manipulatives specifically here.

Place Value Discs

Student Kits

Many teachers prefer to organize discs into student kits. The idea being that students will have easy access to the discs for lessons with minimal time getting discs out and cleaning them up.

This option works great if you have enough discs for each student to have 20 of each place value; 20 ones, 20 tens, 20 hundreds, etc. Students are expected to keep these baggies or boxes of discs in their desks.

Pros: Easy access

Cons: Relies on students to maintain the correct number of discs in their kits. (I was that teacher who couldn’t stand the fact that there was one ten disc on the floor at the end of the lesson that seemed to belong to no one!)

Group Kits

Like student kits, you’ll need 20 of each place value in each kit. With group kits, you don’t need as many total discs. The idea here is that students will use discs with a partner or in small groups. These kits can be stored in a community tub and pulled out for use during lessons.

Pros: Easy access

Cons: See above. (Which kit does this disc belong to?!?)

Community Tubs

In this case, discs are organized by place value into tubs. So, you would have a tub of ones, a tub of tens, and so on. In each tub, you can keep a set of small cups (Dixie cups work well) for students to take a scoop of the discs when needed. Clean up is a snap. Students simply dump the cups of discs back into the correct place value tub.

Pros: No more mystery missing discs! Very quick set up. (No more evenings spent counting out discs while watching TV.)

Cons: Requires a bit more practice with the procedure of gathering and returning discs to the correct tub.

Linking Cubes

Linking cubes are a multi-functional manipulative that each classroom should have. For a class of about 20 students, you’ll want to have at least 400 individual cubes. That’s enough for each student to have a set of 20 when needed for instruction. If you’re using them for modeling area or multiplication arrays, you might want double that amount.

Student Kits or Group Kits

You’ll want to put at least 20 in each kit.

Pros: Ease of access.

Cons: Whose cube is this?!?

Community Tubs

If you are keeping your cubes in tubs, for ease of passing out and cleaning up, organize them in rods of 10, preferably by color. That way you can quickly pass out 2 rods (or more) to each student or partner group.

Pros: Fewer materials in student desks. No more mystery cubes.

Cons: Need to establish procedures for keeping cubes in rods of ten. (Easy, peasy!)

 

Other manipulatives should be in tubs on a shelf in the classroom available to all students at all times!

If you have any organizational tips from your classroom that you’d like to share, please send us a comment.

 

 

Ask the Experts: What manipulatives do you suggest for my grade level?

Singapore Mathematics instruction – or, really, just good math instruction – will have students working through three phases of learning, referred to as the Concrete-Pictorial-Abstract approach. In order to teach following this approach, you need to start at the concrete level. Jean Piaget, a Swiss psychologist, believed that in order for students to be able to visualize and abstract mathematics they first must manipulate materials. He called this the concrete operational phase of learning.

So, what do you need to teach concretely? A complete list of recommended materials by grade level can be found here.

Really, though, with a few basic items you can get started…

Linking Cubes

Find linking cubes here.

Kindergarten – used for counting with one-to-one correspondence, measuring with non-standard units, and for modeling basic addition and subtraction situations.

1st – 2nd grade – used for place value understanding, to model story problems and mental math strategies, for measurement with non-standard units, building array models for multiplication, and for beginning bar modeling.

3rd grade – used to model part-whole and comparison word problems involving addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, for building array models for multiplication and division, and for modeling area.

4th grade and up – used to model word problems for multiplication, division, and ratio, and to model area and volume.

Base-Ten Blocks and Place Value Discs

Find Base Ten Blocks here and Place Value Discs here.

1st grade – Base-Ten Blocks are used to model place value for numbers to 100

2nd grade and up – Place Value Discs are used as a more abstract (and manageable) model for place value understanding for numbers from thousandths to millions, and for modeling and developing a conceptual understanding of the four standard algorithms. Base-Ten blocks can continue to be used for those students needing a one-to-one representation.

Paper Strips and Squares of Equal Size

Cut them from paper found in the recycle bin.

1st and 2nd grade – used to model fractions of a whole.

2nd grade and up – used to model the four operations of fractions with the same size whole and for modeling part-whole and comparison word problems.

Number Cards (Playing Cards) and Dice

Find number cards on our resources page or pick up some playing cards at your local dollar store. Dice can be found here.

All grades – for playing games and making math fun!

 

Get creative and have fun building your inventory of math manipulatives!

What questions do you have?

Next: Ideas for organizing manipulatives.

Announcing: Jumpstart Your Singapore Math® Instruction Workshops for 2018!

Back by popular demand!

We are pleased to announce the return of Jumpstart, an intensive, two-day workshop for current and potential users of Primary Math and Math in Focus, as well as any teacher interested in incorporating these techniques into their own classroom, regardless of current curriculum. If you are:

  • new to the Singapore approach to math instruction…
  • needing a refresher to boost your math teaching skills…
  • wanting to incorporate the best practices from Singapore into your current curriculum…or
  • curious about the reasons for Singapore’s remarkable success…

…then this workshop is for you!

Click here to get all of the details on this exciting program!

Location and dates currently available:

Tulsa, OK | July 23 – 24, 2018:
Register Now!

Fort Collins, CO | July 26 – 27, 2018:
Register Now!

Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN | July 30-31, 2018
Register Now!

Do you want to be notified when a Jumpstart Your Singapore Math Instruction is scheduled near you? Fill out the form below:

Structuring the Math Day

One of the questions I get most often is:

How do I use the materials with my Singapore Math curriculum and fit it all into an hour math block?

First off, kudos to your school for setting aside an hour math block for your youngest learners! Through math instruction, students will gain the skills and thought processes necessary to solve problems. Math needs to be given a priority in the schedule. Following is one of my favorite quotes from Dr. Yeap Ban Har, author, and contributor to several Singapore Math style curriculum.

“We are not teaching math. We are teaching thinking through the medium of math.”

What should I include in my lessons?
  • Ongoing cumulative review
  • Direct instruction
  • Guided practice
  • Independent practice
How much time should I spend on each component?

10 minutes – Ongoing Cumulative Review
20 minutes – Direct Instruction
30 minutes – Guided and Independent Practice

What does each component consist of?
Ongoing Cumulative Review (10 minutes)

According to Steven Leinwand, in his book Accessible Mathematics: 10 Instructional Shifts that Raise Student Achievement, in every classroom there should be signs of: 

A deliberate and carefully planned reliance on ongoing, cumulative review of key skills and concepts.

As you teach concepts, you will want to include them in your ongoing cumulative review. With such an emphasis on mental math strategies and the development of number sense, mental math should play a major role in your daily review.

Mental Math can be practiced through the use of:

Direct Instruction (20 minutes)

  • Teacher directed (follow the plan in the Teacher’s Guide)
  • Through student exploration (also known as, an Anchor Task)

Guided Practice (30 minutes combined with Independent Practice)

  • Textbook problems can be worked:
    • Whole group answering problems on individual whiteboards,
    • With partners working through problems together, or
    • Individually

Independent Practice (30 minutes combined with Guided Practice)

  • Workbook problems
    • As home enjoyment
    • As classwork
  • Fluency practice

Comment below with your questions or concerns about structuring your math day!

%d bloggers like this: