NCSM Sessions: Singapore Math

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 third in a series of posts from those conferences.

NCSM Sessions

  • Singapore Math for the U.S. Classroom – Patsy Kanter, Andy Clark
  • Lessons from Singapore: The Professional Development Required to Implement a World-Class Curriculum  – Andy Clark
  • Developing a Singapore Math Curriculum: From Theory to Practice – Dr. Ho-Kheong Fong

These three sessions were all presented by authors of the Math in Focus (MIF) program published by Great Source, a division of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. You can read about the product in my post about the NCTM exhibit hall.

The first session, Singapore Math for the U.S. Classroom covered the Math in Focus materials. This was a commercial showcase session…

provided by NCSM elite sponsor partners to share information about their products. – NCSM Conference Handbook

And the session went according to those parameters.  According to Kanter, the company took My Pals are Here, the program used by 86% of primary schools in Singapore and asked, “How do we bring engaging together with the standards?” Math in Focus is the result of that question.

Clark’s session, Lessons from Singapore: The Professional Development Required to Implement a World-Class covered challenges faced by schools that adopted Math in Focus this past school year, including schools in:

  • Old Bridge, NJ
  • Lexington, KY
  • other small districts in KY
  • Duluth, MN
  • New York City

From these adoptions, Clark listed four main challenges facing teachers and school adopting the MIF materials

  1. Teacher math knowledge
  2. Lack of embedded professional development
  3. Lack of a sense of the math trajectory
  4. The U.S. tends to have skill- based standards rather than organizing ideas

These needs should all be addressed when considering adopting a Singapore Math program. While Clark was using examples from Math in Focus, the truth is that the schools adopting the  Primary Mathematics series face similar challenges. Clark listed specific content knowledge deficits many teachers had when starting with Math in Focus and how the program helps teach the teachers the content.The topics that were most difficult included:

  • Teaching algorithms with understanding – Many teachers have mainly a procedural knowledge of mathematics.
  • Mental Math – Teachers lack strong mental math skills.
  • Modeling word problems – Teachers are not used to representing a word problem.
  • Fractions-  Teachers struggle to teach both concepts and operations of fractions.

Clark was challenged to get all of his material into the hour provided, but did provide this slide from the handouts that suggested some ways to meet the content knowledge challenges teachers have had:

Finally, in the session Developing a Singapore Math Curriculum: From Theory to Practice, Dr. Fong provided an overview of the philosophy and pedagogy that underlies the Math in Focus program. He showed several problems and demonstrated various philosophies applied. Here’s one to try!

Put the following numbers into the diagram so that each line of three numbers is equal:

1.2, 2.4, 3.6, 4.8, 6, 7.2

This problem applies overarching ideas from the Singapore Mathematics curriculum, specifically visualization and making connections.

Can you “see” the number bonds? How can you simplify the problem?


Math Conference Mania: Part 2

Last week, 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 second in a series of posts from those conferences.

The vendor exhibit hall at the National Conference of Teachers of Mathematics reminds me of a state fair Merchandisers Building. Many of the large corporations have presenters with headsets a la Brittney Spears and offer a reward for sitting through a presentation. With 175 vendors, many of whom have presentations running continuously, the hall floor can be crowded and hard to navigate, but well worth taking the time to visit.  There were people waiting for the exhibit hall to open each morning and many talked about needing an additional suitcase or paying luggage fees to get their samples and freebies home. (And some just bought extra luggage right there on site from the vendor, Tutto.)

I spent quite a bit of time at the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt exhibition booth perusing the available Math in Focus books. According to the series authors, Math in Focus started with the same math covered in My Pals are Here, which is currently used by 86% of the primary schools in Singapore, and then made some additions.

Here’s a full list of the program components on the Math in Focus.

Additions to My Pals are Here content include:

  • Aligning to NCTM Focal Points
  • Addition of a Kindergarten Level
  • Chapter Opener and Chapter Reviews to each textbook
  • Adapted language and units of measure for US market
  • Added worked examples to Student Workbook

Additional materials for the U.S. market include:

  • American Teacher’s Guide
  • Assessment books
  • Differentiation materials: Reteach and Enrichment student books
  • Technology materials:
    • CD-ROM of Virtual Manipulatives and Teacher resources.
    • Online versions of the Student Books and Workbooks, the Teacher’s Edition
    • Online assessment generator
  • Complete manipulative kits

In addition to Math in Focus,  the NCTM Exhibit Hall featured several Singapore Math-related displays. Both of the following booths had a sample and flyers for a new book on bar modeling, which will be available later this month:

Bar Modeling: A Problem Solving Tool by Yeap Ban Har

Bar Modeling: A Problem Solving Tool by Yeap Ban Har

  • had samples of both the Primary Mathematics U.S. and Standards Editions as well as the secondary materials and Singapore science they offer. Copies of the new Challenging Word Problems series, aligned to both Primary Mathematics versions will be available soon.
  • Marshall Cavendish Online demo-ed their online version of Primary Mathematics. Register now for trial access. Full access should be available in the fall. I’ll post a full review when I’m done working through all of the lessons currently available.

Two companies that provide Professional Development on Singapore Math curriculum also had exhibit booths:

  • SMARTTraining, LLC, had samples of their materials for sale, including a  Sprint Library series, and place value disks that match the colors of the materials used in the Primary Mathematics books. (Full disclosure, I was a co-founder of this company, though I’m no longer affiliated with them, I continue to offer Singapore Math training and related-services.)
  • Staff Development for Educators also provides training and hosts a Singapore Math Strategies Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada in July.

Of course, most vendors were unrelated to Singapore Math. Of these, one in particular got my attention. T-ime Education is introducing a new curriculum to the United States based on the Korean Mathematics model, Numino which is:

a classroom-based and computer-based curriculum developed by T-ime Education to develop elementary students’ critical thinking and problem solving abilities and builds upon their skills to acquire mathematical competence.

Coming up, session reviews…


Math Conference Mania: Part 1

Last week, 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. The first focuses on mathematics teacher-leaders and includes supervisors, coaches, and just about anyone who works at a department head level or is involved in a Professional Learning Community. The NCTM national conference is a whopper! Over 10,000 people attended this year and while those numbers are down from prior years, there were plenty of interesting sessions to attend and informative people to meet.

Singapore Math was well represented at both conferences, which prompted this tongue-in-cheek tweet from a @ddmeyer, a high school math teacher:

“Hey you guys! Has anybody heard anything about this “Singapore Math”?! #nctm10”

From the session descriptions alone, I counted:

NCSM: Six Singapore Math sessions for 1500 attendees

  • Singapore Math for the U.S. Classroom *
  • Lessons from Singapore: The Professional Development Required to Implement a World-Class Curriculum *
  • Intriguing Lessons About How Math is Taught and Assessed in High Performing Asian Countries
  • Developing a Singapore Math Curriculum: From Theory to Practice *
  • Using Singapore Math Model Drawing to Help Special Education Students and Struggling Learners Become More Capable and Willing Problem Solvers
  • Integrating Curriculum, Assessment, and Teacher Professional Development: Singapore and the United States *

NCTM: Twelve Singapore Math sessions for about 10,000 attendees

  • Linking Concepts, Context, and Problem Solving through Singapore Math Model Drawing
  • A Glimpse of Singapore Math in the Primary Grades
  • The Cutting Edge of Singapore Math: Problem Solving, Creative Thinking and Inquiry Thinking
  • The Singapore Math for Helping Children Solve Challenging Mathematical Problems
  • Singapore Math: Contextual Word Problem Solving Leads to Concept Mastery
  • Math with Meaning – Success the Singapore Way: Foundations of Number Sense
  • Does Singapore Mathematics Enhance Students’ Learning in the United States *
  • Making Connections: Problems from Singapore Classrooms
  • Lessons from Singapore: Using Visual Models to Teach Algebra and Number Sense
  • Using “Strip Diagrams” to Solve Algebra Word Problems
  • Intervention Strategies: The Singapore Way
  • Let’s Make Triangles With Sticks! Geometry in Asian Textbooks

Sessions with an asterisk (*) are ones that I attended and reviews of those are forthcoming. With over 750 total sessions, scheduling at NCTM was a challenge. There were three different venues and many of the Singapore Math-related sessions at NCTM ran concurrently or overlapped. Anyone truly interested in learning about Singapore Math could have attended six entire sessions or parts of all of them.

Of the six sessions at the NCSM, half were by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Math in Focus series authors Patsy Kanter, Andy Clark and Dr. Fong Ho Kheong. They were the only sponsors at the NCSM conference sponsor area that displayed materials related to the Singapore Math Curriculum. (Also published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt divisions and on display in the booth: Saxon Math, Think Math, McDougal Littell, Destination Math, Go Math)

This was my second NCTM conference (takeways from 2009 here) and my first visit to the NCSM. I can see that I will need to reserve the full week in the future to attend both. In addition to the Singapore Math-related sessions, I attended sessions on formative assessment, writing effective homework, coaching, asking good questions and fractions. My mind was expanded by renowned professors such as Deborah Loewenberg-Ball and Hung-Hsi Wu (session reviewed at Kitchen Table Math II).

Start saving now for next year’s annual conferences in Indianapolis, April 11 – 16, 2011!


April is Math Awareness Month

Sponsored by the American Mathematical Society, the American Statistical Association, the Mathematical Association of America, and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, the theme for April’s Math Awareness Month (MAM) is Mathematics and Sports.  From the press release:

Sports offers a cornucopia of instances involving data, strategies and chance, each of which is perfectly suited to mathematical analysis. Beyond the obvious uses of mathematics for things such as rating baseball players and football quarterbacks, mathematics is used to design the dimple patterns on golf balls and the composition of racing tires; it is used for scheduling tournaments and for ranking teams; and it is used to determine tactics and to predict the ultimate limits in sports records.

Organizations and teachers from around the country have posted some ideas for the classroom and events at their schools on the MAM site. Even better, head to Subadra’s Math Awareness Month post on her blog: Library of Books, Links & More. Be sure to have a snack first, you might be there a while. There are over 50 great links to articles, activities, and books on mathematics and sport!


Pi Day 2010

Are you ready?

Ice cube tray available at Amazon.

Pi Clock  at

Clock in Terms of Pi

The San Francisco Exploratorium

is celebrating their 22nd annual Pi Day:

Come create Pi puns, participate in Pi-related antics—and have a slice of pie

Activities, music, and stories at

The site owners have sorted through hundreds of ideas and chosen their 50 ideas best  for celebrating Pi Day. (Be sure to check out the Pi Day Carols, too!)