Singapore Math Slated for Study by Utah’s Legislature

In the final week of its 45 day legislative session, Utah’s House failed to pass S.B. 179, the Math Education Initiative, sponsored by Sen. Howard Stephenson (R-Draper).  As reported earlier, the Senate-passed version of S.B. 179 provided incentives for schools to adopt the Singapore Math Curriculum.

Utah’s budget situation played a role in the fate of S.B. 179. However, before adjourning, the Legislature did include a Singapore Math incentive program as an item worthy of further study prior to the 2012 Session.

Under H.J. R. 24, the Master Study Resolution, the Legislature gives the Legislative Management Committee items of study for consideration prior to the 2012 Annual General Session. Items may be assigned to the appropriate interim committee, which is to study and make recommendations for legislative action in the 2012 Session.

H.J.R. 24 includes the following math study items:

  • Math Instruction – to study a proposal to provide a pilot program for incentives for Singapore math instruction.
  • Algebra and Geometry Pilot Program – to study whether to provide a pilot program for honors algebra and geometry.
  • Secondary Math Requirements – to study high school math requirements versus college readiness.

H.J.R. 24 passed both the House and Senate without opposition.


S.B. 179 Passes Utah Senate: Provides Grants for Singapore Math

Today (Friday, February 25), the Utah State Senate passed S.B. 179, the Math Education Initiative, by a 19-6 vote, with 4 Senators not voting. Sponsored by Sen. Howard Stephenson (R-Draper), S.B. 179 would provide incentives for schools to adopt the Singapore Math Curriculum.

S.B. 179 appropriates $1.813 million to be awarded to school districts and charter schools to adopt Singapore Math ($1 million), to offer honors mathematics courses ($63,000) and to math teacher training programs ($750,000).

Sen.  Stephenson has acknowledged that funding the initiative is an issue, and that the amount appropriated to the program may need to be scaled down. Still, Sen. Stephenson said it was important for new kinds of instruction in math to be offered on a pilot basis.

The bill now moves to the Utah State House of Representatives. Utah’s legislative session is 45 days long, with the 2011 session to conclude on March 10.

More information about Utah’s SB 179

Updated status of S.B. 179-the Math Education Initiative.



Utah’s Math Education Initiative: Incentives to Adopt Singapore Math

This week, Utah State Sen. Howard Stephenson (R-Draper) introduced legislation that would provide incentives for schools to adopt the Singapore Math Curriculum. On February 18, 2011, the Senate Education Committee passed the measure, S.B. 179-the Math Education Initiative, by a 4-2 vote.

S.B. 179 appropriates $1.813 million in ongoing Education Funds for the Math Education Initiative. It directs the Board of Education to award grants to school districts and charter schools to adopt Singapore Math ($1 million), to schools offering honors mathematics courses ($63,000) and to math teacher training programs ($750,000).

Statewide Interest in Singapore Math

During Friday’s hearing, Sen. Stephenson said:

“We have had an interest in Singapore Math being available by many parents across the state because they learn that this is a math program that is producing the best math results in the national rankings of industrialized nations. It is a very visual method, very intuitive and seems to correspond to our human ability to understand math.”

S.B. 179 uses grants, not mandates, to encourage schools to adopt Singapore Math. Sen. Stephenson said, “Mandates don’t work very well, but when we provide an incentive, it can really move the world because there’s a competitive nature to it.”

Sen. Lyle Hillyard (R-Logan), an Education Committee member, commented:

“sometimes we need to incentivize things to have them happen, but this seems to me to make so much sense. Why don’t school districts do it anyway?”

Several others spoke about S.B. 179 at the hearing.

  • JoDee Sundberg, President of the Utah School Boards Association (USBA), said that while her organization has no position on S.B. 179, they are concerned that Singapore Math materials do not support the Utah Common Core Standards. In addition, USBA is, “not supportive of any additional funding being used until we fund education and growth and some of the other areas that we have recommended.”
  • Kevin Sheridan of the consulting firm Southwest Education spoke in opposition to the bill, stating that Singapore Math materials have not been recommended by the State Instructional Materials Commission.
  • Former Rep. Laura Black expressed concerned about the cost of S.B. 179 and said that districts are working hard to improve math scores.
  • Martell Menlove, Deputy Superintendent of the Utah Board of Education, said that the Board took the position that S.B. 179 is unnecessary and, “imposes on the Board’s constitutional role in general control and supervision.” Dr. Menlove said the Board has:

“not brought a math initiative forward during the session because of the position of the State Board that our first priorities are that the basic program and that growth be funded, and not to put things in competition to that…our math initiative would be somewhat different than this…it would have more concentration on interventions for students and not the use of outside programs or to the use of outside companies to try to tell us what to do.”

  • Curtis Blanco, an electrical engineer at Hill Air Force Base and supporter of the Math Education Initiative, testified that geometry has been gutted compared to what it used to be. Blanco said that if we want to produce scientists capable of solving tough challenges like getting us to the moon, we can’t offer watered down mathematics like we are doing now.

Committee members wanted clarification about how Singapore Math aligns to the Common Core.

What’s Next

S.B. 179 now moves to the full Senate. Sen. Stephenson acknowledged that the amount of the appropriation sought in S.B. 179 is an issue, but that the initiative is worthy of consideration on the Floor. Utah’s legislative session is 45 days long, with the 2011 session to conclude on March 10.


Singapore Math in the News

The internet is abuzz with Singapore Math stories lately, from the New York Times to the numerous schools announcing a new adoption. Here’s what you may have missed:

From the New York Times:

Singapore Math Adopted in More U.S. Schools

Singapore math’s added appeal is that it has largely skirted the math wars of recent decades over whether to teach traditional math or reform math. Indeed, Singapore math has often been described by educators and parents as a more balanced approach between the two, melding old-fashioned algorithms with visual representations and critical thinking.

A Slower Approach to Math

Here in New York City, home to the nation’s largest school system, a small but growing number of schools have adopted this approach, based on Singapore’s national math system.Many teachers and parents here say Singapore math helps children develop a deeper understanding of numbers and math concepts than they gain through other math programs.

From the Voice of America:

Singapore Math Adds Up for US Teachers

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

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.

From The Daily Riff:

“Teach less, learn more.” Lessons from Singapore by Bill Jackson:
Singapore Math Demystified by Bill Jackson:

From the American Educator:

Beyond Singapore’s Mathematics Textbooks -Focused and Flexible Supports for Teaching and Learning

Today, Singapore’s mathematics textbooks are available in the United States, so it is tempting to think that there is an easy solution to increasing mathematics achievment here-just adopt the textbooks. But the textbooks are not solely responsible for Singapore’s success; these written resources are just one part of a multifaceted approach.

Schools Adopting Singapore Math programs:


NCTQ report recommends Colorado adopt Singapore Math

The National Center on Teacher Quality released a report entitled: Race to the top: Colorado may be used to high altitudes but can it compete in Race to the Top?

Commissioned by the Piton Foundation, the Donnell-Kay Foundation, the Colorado Children’s Campaign and the Public Education & Business Coalition, the report suggests 7 strategies the state might take while applying for the Race To the Top (RTT) funds.

  • Strategy 1: Performance management (Teacher Evaluation, Tenure & Dismissal) – Given the tremendous impact teachers have on learning, no strategy a state will take on is likely to have a greater impact on student achievement than one that seeks to maximize teacher and principal performance.
  • Strategy 2: Equitable Distribution of Teachers and Principals – Schools serving children living in poverty are more apt to employ teachers with lower qualifications than schools serving more affluent children.
  • Strategy 3: Induction – CO should develop a statewide system of induction support for new teachers, particularly in its high needs and remote rural schools.
  • Strategy 4: Compensation Reform – CO needs to move away from lockstep salary schedules towards a system that differentiates salary on a number of factors, including teacher effectiveness, the relative difficulty of a school setting and the demand for teachers with particular skills or knowledge.
  • Strategy 5: Teaching in STEM fields: CO should develop a coherent state strategy to address the difficulty school districts face in attracting and retaining sufficient numbers of qualified STEM teachers.
  • Strategy6: Statewide Adoption of an Effective Curriculum: Students achieve when 4 elements are in place: Standards, Curriculum, Teachers & Assessment.
  • Strategy 7: Educator Preparation (Including Alternate Certification) – In spite of countless studies looking at the value of teacher education, we have only been able to learn (apparently) that no single method of teacher preparation yields more effective teachers than another.

I’ll be honest, I haven’t read through the entire report as yet, however I managed to get through Strategy 6, in which the authors recommend statewide adoption of Singapore Math at the elementary level. The report notes that:

…curriculum has been troublingly absent in conversations about education reform as well as ignored in the indifferent approach some educators take to curricula adoptions.

… the current emphasis on human capital and effective teachers has been at the expense of an equally urgent emphasis on the importance of good curricula.

And when discussing common standards, the report flat-out states:

We would go so far as to say that if the standards were in conflict with the Singapore curriculum, a state ought to consider opting out of the new standards.

Well, you don’t hear that everyday!
Read and enjoy

(Cross-posted at KTM-2)