NCTM 2012 Conference Singapore Math Sessions

If you’re like me, you’re already excitedly paging through the NCTM Conference program book, choosing which workshops and sessions to attend.  With over 700 sessions this year, planning your days can be quite a challenge.  If you’re  looking to check out some Singapore Math sessions, there’s good news and bad.

Good news? There are 11 sessions on Singapore Math this year and they are much more diverse than in the past. (Though the number of choices is down from the 14 offered last year)

Bad news? Anything listed below in pink is an overlapping session.  Below are my thoughts on which session to choose, if you have a conflict.

The best news! I’m presenting a  session on Friday, April 27 at 11 AM with Lauri Susi entitled, “Technology + Singapore Strategies = Number Sense.” (More on this below)

FYI – Four of the eleven sessions are Exhibitor’s Workshops:

Exhibitor Workshops (60 minutes) are set theatre style for at least 115 people. Exhibitors showcase their products and services away from the Exhibit Hall.

Thursday, April 26: 8:30 AM-9:30 AM – No conflict

EW – Differentiating Singapore Math Lessons with Yeap Ban Har
Exhibitor Workshop: Marshall Cavendish International

 Understand how Singapore Math is designed to provide learners, especially struggling ones, with adequate scaffold. Suitable for educators teaching Grades 2-7.

Thursday, April 26: 9:30 AM-10:30 AM – No conflict (but you’ll need to hustle from the Convention Center to the Marriott)

79 – Let’s Mix Drinks: Ratio in Japanese and Singapore Textbooks
Lead Speaker: William Jackson

The Common Core State Standards have students learn about unit rate and equivalent ratios in grade 6. See how to bring to these ideas to life using Asian textbooks, bar models, and lesson study.

Thursday, April 26 12:30 PM – 01:30 PM

166 – Using Primary School Classroom Computer Gaming for Number Sense
Lead Speaker: Ashish Amresh
Co-Speaker: Tricia Salerno

Enhancing classroom math using video games develops number sense. Involving gaming keeps students’ engagement and motivation high. The speakers created the games from Singapore Math, because of its alignment to the Common Core State Standards. They will demonstrate social media that promote students’ success further motivation. Designed for teachers working with grades preK – 2.

Thursday, April 26 1:00 PM – 02:30 PM

207 – Model Drawing for Challenging Word Problems, the Singapore Way
Lead Speaker: Anni Elizabeth Stipek

Come on a tour of how to successfully solve challenging word problems using model drawing. This revolutionary tool will help students understand word problems by first drawing a picture and eventually move to the equation. Designed for teachers working with grades 6 – 8.

196 – Singapore Math Strategies You Can Count On!
Lead Speaker: Char Forsten

 Come see specific Singapore Math strategies that will deepen and improve students’ number sense and problem solving skills. Learn practical, technology-friendly strategies that align with and support the Common Core Standards. Designed for teachers working with grades 3 – 5.

The first session will spotlight Rocket Solvers, a number sense app based on Singapore Math.  Both Anni Stipek and Char Forsten work for Staff Development for Educators. All three are knowledgeable presenters, so you won’t make a mistake if you  head to the grade strand that you teach.


-> Need preK – 2 Number Sense ideas? Head to the first session.
-> If you’re  looking for grades 6 – 8 content, head to Model Drawing.
-> Seeking grades 3 – 5 CCSS aligned material? Head to Char’s session
*Personally, I’ll be attending this one: Using Students’ Misunderstanding to Deepen Teachers’ Understanding

Friday, April 27 11:00 AM – 012:00 PM No conflict – Woohoo! -This is a session I’m presenting with Lauri Susi.

470 – Technology + Singapore Strategies = Number Sense
Lead Speaker: Cassandra Turner
Co-Speaker: Lauri Susi

Visual reasoning is a powerful tool for making sense of mathematics. Learn successful visual strategies and instructional methods from Singapore that allow students to develop a deeper understanding of number concepts using hands-on manipulatives and software. Walk away with strategies for guiding students’ learning that you can use tomorrow.

Friday, April 27 1:00 PM – 02:00 PM

EW – Math Buddies – The Singapore Online Math Program for CCSS
Exhibitor Workshop: Marshall Cavendish International

Math Buddies adopts the same pedagogical principles of our Singapore mathematics textbooks and combines multimedia technologies and instructional strategies to make teaching and learning Math easier. Gain insight into its various components and how these can help you transition to CCSS and an effective online teaching and learning environment.

Friday, April 27 1:00 PM – 02:30 PM

509 – Singapore Math: Building Blocks to Learning Volume
Lead Speaker: Katherine de la Garza

Learn how to bring hands-on Singapore Math to life in your classroom. Use blocks to build solids, share your strategies, and then watch classroom footage of students to understand how this concrete-pictorial-abstract approach can deepen students’ understanding of volume and encourage inquiry. Hands-on session designed for teachers working with grades 3 – 5.

The first session is an Exhibitor Workshop, meaning that you can find more information about their company on the exhibit floor.

-> Interested in Singapore Math in an online environment, go to the first session.
-> Looking for “use it tomorrow” ideas? Head to the volume session.
-> Leave early to get to the next session with Dr. Yeap. This one will fill up fast!

Friday, April 27 2:30 PM – 03:30 PM – No conflict

EW – Intervention Strategies with Singapore Math with Yeap Ban Har
Exhibitor Workshop: Marshall Cavendish International

How does Singapore schools deal with middle school students who struggle with mathematics? This session includes a discussion on how curriculum design and teaching strategies can help such students recover enough to be able to cope with mathematics at the secondary level. Suitable for educators teaching Grades 5 – 8

Friday, April 27 4:00 PM – 05:00 PM – No conflict

EW – Singapore Math Is for Middle School Too!
Exhibitor Workshop:

The international success of Singaporean students has led many elementary schools to use Singapore Math® textbooks. But Singapore’s students also perform at the top of the world in middle school. Come see how new Singaporean textbooks, aligned to the Common Core State Standards,can help students learn mathematics in powerful and meaningful ways.

Saturday, April 28: 11:00 AM-12:00 PM – No conflict

688 – Intriguing Lessons about Teaching and Assessing Math around the World
Lead Speaker: Steven J. Leinwand

It’s really not an accident that countries like Singapore and Hong Kong significantly outperform the United States. Take a look at some of the features, instructional approaches, and assessment items that can guide our own efforts to improve U.S mathematics teaching and learning.


NCTM Conference Singapore Math Sessions

Heading to the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) Conference in Indianapolis this year? Looking to check out some Singapore Math sessions? Well, there’s good news and bad.

Good news? there are 14 sessions on Singapore Math this year! (Two more than last year.)

Bad news? Anything listed below in pink is an overlapping session.  Here are my thoughts on which session to choose, if you have a conflict.

Click to enlarge.

Thursday, April 14, 2011: 8:30 AM-9:30 AM

36.1- Making Mathematics Accessible: The Singapore Method
Exhibitor Workshop: Marshall Cavendish International

Participants will learn the basic principles in making mathematics accessible to average and struggling students while challenging the advanced students. Learn a few Singapore Math strategies from Dr Yeap Ban Har along the way.

36.15- Singapore Math and the New Common Core-It’s a Beautiful Thing
Exhibitor Workshop: SMARTTraining

The creators of the New Common Core Standards looked to the high performing countries, one of which was Singapore. This workshop will illustrate how the Singapore Math curriculum is uniquely positioned to support American Teachers in having students meet the new standards.

These are both Exhibitor Workshops, meaning that you can find more information about their companies on the Exhibit floor. And it’s a tough call; Dr. Yeap is always awesome. Singapore Math and the Common Core are well-correlated, so this session should be informative. (Disclaimer, I was a co-founder of  SMARTTraining and a partner until 2009)

-> If you’re totally new to Singapore Math, go to the first session.
-> If you’re familiar with the curriculum, go for the Common Core session.

Thursday, April 14, 2011: 9:30 AM-10:30 AM – No conflict (Yeah! Robyn’s great.)

71- Bar Diagrams: Draw Your Way to Problem-Solving Success
Lead Speaker: Robyn Silbey

This highly interactive presentation will teach bar diagramming, a powerful, visual-logical problem-solving strategy focused on thinking and comprehension. Using this enhanced version of Singapore’s bar modeling, you’ll draw bar diagrams to analyze, draw, and solve several word problems. Add this critical-thinking strategy to your problem-solving toolbox.

Thursday, April 14, 2011: 9:30 AM-10:30 AM

151- Math Talk: Teaching Concepts and Skills through Illustrations and Stories
Lead Speaker: Char Forsten

A young child’s understanding of the world is enlightened and expanded through stories and illustrations, so it makes sense to use these resources when teaching mathematics. You will learn to use “math talk,” an approach based on a method used in Singapore, as a powerful way to provide purposeful practice through nursery rhymes, fairy tales, illustrations, and photographs.

164- Singapore Lessons: Visual Models to Move from Arithmetic to Algebra
Lead Speaker: Andy Clark

Singapore’s success in math is in part a result of carefully designed lessons that enable students to represent and visualize mathematical relationships. These models begin with the four operations and then connect  to complex problems and then to algebra. This workshop will demonstrate why their students succeed in algebra at such a high level.

Both of these sessions have the same name as sessions the presenters gave last year, with very similar descriptions.

-> If you’re working with lower elementary go to the first session.
-> Upper elementary and middle school, go for the Common Core session.

Thursday, April 14, 2011: 2:30 PM-3:30 PM

240.3- Singapore Math: Bar Model Method
Exhibitor Workshop: Marshall Cavendish International

Learn to use the bar model method in solving basic and not-so-basic problems from the Singapore classrooms. Dr Yeap Ban Har will model good questioning teachniques used to help students solve word problems involving whole numbers, fractions, ratio and percent.

Thursday, April 14, 2011: 3:00 PM-4:30 PM

246- Paradigm Shift in Problem Solving: A Singapore Approach
Lead Speaker: Robert J. Hogan
Co-Speaker: Sarah A. Schaefer

With this method of solving word problems, students develop a pictorial representation, allowing them to see the big picture. Plan to learn the Singapore method first-hand from teachers and students interacting and solving problems. Algebra and pictures connect naturally unites, and any battle between students and word problems becomes a thing of the past.

254- Models for Challenging Word Problems: Finding Solutions the Singapore Way
Lead Speaker: Anni Elizabeth Stipek

You know the basics of model drawing. Now let’s kick things up a notch! You’ll learn how to solve challenging multistep and before-and-after problems, then move on to prealgebra, algebra, and more. Get ready for some high-intensity learning!

Thursday, April 14, 2011: 3:30 PM-4:30 PM

277- Singapore Math: Constructing with Cubes to Understand Volume
Lead Speaker: Katherine de la Garza

Join us as we explore how a problem-solving lesson on volume encourages students’ inquiry, communication, and metacognition. When students are given the opportunity to explore volume by building figures with cubes, they not only construct meaning and the formula for volume, but also have fun and gain confidence as mathematicians.

278- Hands-On Equations® and Singapore Math: Word Problems Using Icons
Lead Speaker: Linda Bailey
Co-Speaker: Kendra Jensen

This session will see show how using physical or pictorial icons helps students visualize both the representation and the conditions of a word problem. Comparing the approaches used in Hands-On Equations with the bar model of Singapore math in representing and solving five word problems, including one involving fractional relations.

Wow! Five sessions that all overlap! Once again, Dr. Yeap is always puts on an insightful session. Tip: you might want to get there early as I’ve lines beforehand and people turned away at the door. Then you could sprint over to the 3:30 sessions!

-> New to Bar Model Drawing? Aim for Dr. Yeap, with session by Robert Hogan as a backup.
-> Familiar with model drawing and want to extend your skills, head to Anni Stipek’s session at 3:00

Friday, April 15, 2011: 2:00 PM-3:00 PM – No conflict

510- Singapore Math: An Implementation Case Study
Lead Speaker: Kevin T. Mahoney

What happened when an American grades pre-K–6 school adopted Singapore’s math program? Based on three years of research, the presenter’s story will give you a unique view into the process and outcomes for teachers and students. Leave with a realistic picture of this powerful program in action.

Friday, April 15, 2011: 4:00 PM-5:00 PM – No conflict

589.2- Singapore Math: A Digital Curriculum Approach
Exhibitor Workshop: Marshall Cavendish International

The Singapore Math Digital Curriculum aims to help educators teach, and students acquire math concepts with interactive tutorials using content and methods proven effective in Singapore. Discover how the Singapore Math Digital Curriculum introduces activities and games for users to apply their conceptual knowledge and reinforce skills in real-world problem solving strategies.

Can’t make it to this one? Head to the EAI Education booth (2116-2117)  on the Exhibit Floor at 4:00pm when I’ll be presenting a short demo on Mental Math Activities.

Saturday, April 16, 2011: 8:30 AM-9:30 AM

609.2- Singapore Math Demystified
Exhibitor Workshop: Inc.

What is Singapore Math all about, really? In this session, Bill Jackson will share the big ideas behind Singapore Math, including the Concrete>Pictorial>Abstract Approach, Problem Solving, and important consideration for implementation and professional development. Bill will also debunk common misconceptions that people have about Singapore Math.

Saturday, April 16, 2011: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM

613- Fact Fluency the Singapore Math Way
Lead Speaker: Johnette Roberts

Help students build a strong foundation in fact fluency and number sense based on Singapore Math strategies. Fact fluency strengthens conceptual understanding, critical-thinking skills, and efficient problem-solving skills. Participants will learn how to teach fact fluency in a fun, engaging way. Activities will be provided.

-> Bill Jackson has been writing some interesting articles about Singapore Math for the Daily Riff online.


Elementary Math Boot Camp

When I go speak at a school’s Parent Night about Singapore Math, I get asked a lot of different questions. The most common one, however, is how can I help my child with his/her homework? To help out in Northern Colorado, my home base, I decided to take my Parent Boot Camps to another level. A monthly or bi-weekly level through Each meetup, we’ll work through an elementary mathematical concept, review strategies, and learn a fun activity or game that supports the concept.

As we get going, I’ll post more about the meetups and the questions and issues that concern parents the most.

From the Read more about us page (where you can register to join, too):

Does your student struggle with his or her math homework? Are you arguing over who’s way of solving problems is right, yours or the teacher’s? Wouldn’t it be nice if your child thought math was FUN? It’s time for a math boot camp for parents! Each Meetup will engage parents with strategies to help their child as well as some time for home-enjoyment review. (Really, why should it be homeWORK?)

Who: Parents who want to help their elementary school students with mathematics.

Why: While math hasn’t changed much since we were in school… virtually everything else has, include teaching methods, curricula, homework, and expectations

How: Using math strategies from Singapore Math and other World-Class curricula, we’ll focus on understanding elementary math concepts. Why do we invert and multiply when dividing fractions? What are we doing when we “borrow” from a number? Why don’t kids memorize their multiplication tables anymore?

Bonus: At each Meetup, I’ll provide Math-Campers with some handpicked resources that engage students and strengthen their mastery of math facts. We’ll play games that focus on mathematics content and discuss your child’s homework assignment, so bring them along!


NCTM Session: Does Singapore Math Enhance Learning?

In late April, two mathematics conferences were held in San Diego: The NCSM (National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics) and the NCTM (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics). This is the final in a series of posts from those conferences.

NCTM Session:

  • Does Singapore Mathematics (SM) Enhance Students’ Learning in the United States? By Richard Askey, Patsy Wang- Iverson and Ban-Har Yeap

Here is the entire session description from the NCTM Program Handbook:

Many teachers want to use SM with their students, but they have been unable to provide data on its effectiveness in the United States. The speakers will report results of a longitudinal study of SM implementation, offer examples of concepts student learn and offer ways in which all students can learn math to high levels.

You can find the slides from Dr. Yeap on his website. After a quick review of the educational system in Singapore, he discussed the key components of their primary school mathematics program.

  • Emphasis on problem solving
  • Enrichment for all students
  • Parental expectations
  • System-wide interventions
  • Using a concrete – pictorial – abstract progression, especially the models
  • Teacher education, both pre-service and professional development

Dr. Yeap presented, then quickly left in order to get to his next session on solving Singapore Math Problems that was a ten minute walk away in another venue. Dr. Askey took over and reviewed some of the problems at greater depth.

Dr. Wang-Iverson provided everyone with a copy of the American Educator magazine containing a recent and very informative article she co-authored: Beyond Singapore’s Mathematics Textbooks -Focused and Flexible Supports for Teaching and Learning.

At the close of the session, I was not the only attendee wondering what had happened to that study. The success of Singapore Math in the United States tends to be based on anecdotal evidence. Teachers will say, “I could really tell my students were ‘getting it’ “or “our test scores soared”. Compelling, but hardly objective evidence of the curriculum’s efficacy here in the United States.

Typically, NCTM sessions are submitted over one year in advance and the presenters had hoped for valid research out of the promoted study. Due to some issues with the study cited in the NCTM session description, it will not be published. This longitudinal data on Singapore Math in the United States has been hard to come by. While hundreds of schools have adopted the curriculum, long-term information simply isn’t available from any of the larger implementations, yet.

The What Works Clearinghouse a department of the U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences, has looked at studies of Singapore Math at the middle school and elementary levels. At the elementary level, as of July 2007, the organization found that “no studies meet eligibility screens”. The WWC released a report in April 2009 regarding the middle school level material for Singapore Math (New Elementary Mathematics) which determined:

No studies of Singapore Math that fall within the scope of the Middle School Math review protocol meet What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) evidence standards. The lack of studies meeting WWC evidence standards means that, at this time, the WWC is unable to draw any conclusions based on research about the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of Singapore Math.

Note that the WWC simply didn’t find any studies among the twelve they reviewed that satisfy their protocol, so they can’t draw any conclusions as to the effectiveness of the Singapore Math Middle School Curriculum.

I’ve heard Patsy Wang-Iverson sum it up succinctly:

Without data, the chatta don’t matta.


NCSM Session: Singapore Teacher Training

In late April, two mathematics conferences were held in San Diego: The NCSM (National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics) and the NCTM (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics). This is the fourth in a series of posts from those conferences.

NCSM Session:

  • Integrating Curriculum, Assessment, and Teacher Professional Development: Singapore and the United States by Ban Har Yeap, Khoon Yoong Wong, Jeremy Roschelle and a colleague.

The final Singapore Math-related sessions at NCSM was the result of a joint research project between the National Institute of Education (NIE)  in Singapore and the Stanford Research Institute International Center for Technology in Learning in Menlo Park, California (SRI).

Dr. Wong spoke first about the teacher training provided in Singapore. The National Institute of Education is the sole teacher preparation facility in Singapore. This allows for standardized pre-service program. He shared the Pre-service Mathematics Teacher Education Framework that guides teacher training in Singapore:

(click to enlarge)

Teachers in Singapore take one of a couple of routes:

  1. Diploma in Education (Dip Ed): 2 years, full-time, Primary.
  2. Bachelor Degree: BA (Ed) or BSc (Ed): 4 years, full-time, Primary or Secondary.
  3. Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE): 1 year, full-time, Primary or Secondary.

Most interestingly, Dr. Wong added the number of courses out of the total courses that each pre-service track requires:
SK = Subject Knowledge (math for school teaching)
CK = Curriculum Studies (math pedagogy)

  1. Diploma: SK =  6 /69    CK = 8 /69
  2. Degree: SK = 4/126    CK = 10/126
  3. PGDE (primary) SK = 4/44    CK =  8/44

Further reading on teacher preparation: Breaking the Cycle: An international comparison of U.S. mathematics teacher preparation.

Dr. Yeap then spoke about professional development for teachers in Singapore. Many people believe that Singaporean primary teachers are specialists, which they pointed out was simply not factual. From his presentation:

Regardless of where it is initiated, most professional development in Singapore has been workshop-style. One of the big challenges of this type of professional development is that there is no follow-up with the teachers on the material presented. Teachers attend the workshop, then go back to their classroom. (Sound familiar?) Singapore is now working on developing a professional learning culture through more reflective teacher practices. Newer avenues for professional development include Lesson Study, Action Research and Professional Learning Communities.

A major difference between United States and Singapore is the allotment of 100 hours of professional development each year for teachers. This statistic is commonly cited as something that could never be achieved in the United States. In actuality, 100 hours amounts to two and a half weeks of time. Additionally, in Singapore, these 100 hours can be spent on activities that enhance the teacher as a person. Calligraphy, school-based team meetings and pottery-making are among activities that might count for these 100 hours. When questioned, Dr. Yeap also qualified that teachers in Singapore might worry if one teacher was putting in more hours than they were. High expectations among the population dictate that the 100 hours is usually a minimum.

You can view Dr. Yeap’s entire presentation on his website, along with other presentations he has done around the world. Best quote from the session comes from him:

Mathematics is an excellent vehicle for the development and improvement of a person’s intellectual competence.

The researchers from SRI spoke next on the findings from their research project. In the NCSM Conference book, Integrating Curriculum, Assessment, and Teacher Professional Development: Singapore and the United States promised to go beyond the “popular but oversimplified views of Singapore’s successes.” The researchers at SRI repeated that merely adopting Singapore’s textbooks will not be enough to guarantee success here in the United States. It is a wide-spread, but mistaken belief, that a school can simply buy Singapore’s textbooks and duplicate their success in mathematics.

Specifically, they found that it wouldn’t be too challenging to duplicate parts of the Singapore Mathematics Syllabus in the United States, including:

  • Creating standards that align to a common assessment.
  • A guiding document like Singapore’s pentagon. Dr. Roschelle proposed that the U.S. could use Adding it up: Helping children learn mathematics. At over 450 pages, it doesn’t have quite the allure of the Singaporean document.
  • Visual models. Singapore uses a concrete-pictorial-abstract methodology incorporating the model method and the U.S. has the Geometer’s Sketchpad.

Dr. Roshelle listed several items that would be somewhat harder to bring to the United States:

  • A high level of professionalism among teachers.
  • Systemic rotations through positions (at NIE, Ministry of Education and classrooms).
  • Allowing teacher input at all levels of education.
  • Systemic leadership.
  • A culture of high expectations.

I’m starting with that culture of high expectations. Every school, every student.