Reader Survey: Help Us Help You

As the popularity and influence of Singapore Math® programs grow, so does interest in focused professional development around Singapore-based concepts.

Each month, we receive dozens of inquiries from teachers and schools seeking training to ensure that they are using the curriculum as effectively as possible. We are in the process of planning future educational programs for teachers and schools, and would love to know how we can help you!

If you are interested in learning more about Singapore Math or taking your current math teaching skills to a higher level, please take a few minutes to complete this survey.

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“Summer Math” Suggestions to Boost Student Understanding

School is out and summer is calling, but for many teachers and administrators, summer is a time to take stock and plan and budget for next year.

As a teacher, this is a glorious time of year, but also one of worry. I worry about my students.  I worry about those who needed extra support throughout the year understanding and retaining math concepts.  How will they fare next school year? Will they regress over the summer months if they don’t do any math work?

There are three categories of students who benefit most from summer math work:

  • Those who have struggled all year and maybe never quite achieved mastery on those critical grade level concepts,
  • those who easily forget concepts, and
  • those whose math confidence could use a boost.

With a Singapore Math program, there aren’t many ready-made options to pick up at the local bookstore.  Books that are  available focus heavily on procedural understanding rather than underlying math concepts. So what’s a teacher to do?

Aside from recommending tutoring, I have found a couple of options that seem to meet my needs as a teacher and the needs of my students.

Workbook Work

Primary Mathematics Common Core Extra Prac 3

For those looking for a paper and pencil option, I recommend the Extra Practice books from Singapore Math’s Primary Mathematics series. Students should work at the grade level just completed (a rising 3rd-grade student should do summer work in the 2nd grade Extra Practice book).

The Extra Practice books offer parents and/or tutors “Friendly Notes” at the beginning of each unit that explain how to re-teach concepts in a way that is familiar to the student.  The notes are followed by practice pages that give parents sample problems appropriate for practicing the concepts and the student an option of working through problems independently.  Best of all, they include an answer key in the back so parents can check work and students can re-work problems, if necessary.

These books are written to cover a year’s worth of concepts; I am by no means suggesting that a child complete the entire book over the summer.  Teachers recommending this book will need to tailor the tasks to meet each student’s needs.  This can be as simple as highlighting the contents page to include units or pages that you would like the student to complete over the summer keeping those critical concepts in mind.

Another option for summer work can be found in online programs.  I have come across three online options for concept practice; Primary Math Digital, it’s twin Math Buddies and a program new to the US market, Matholia.

Online Options

Primary_Digital_Coming_Soon_Home_SchoolPrimary Math Digital (Free 15-day trial) and Math Buddies (Also a free trial) are backed by Singapore Math’s Primary Mathematics and Math in Focus series. Both offer students video tutorials that can be viewed by the student (and parent) an unlimited number of times.  These videos are scaffolded to follow the pictorial and abstract progression of learning.

Teachers can assign videos, practice and assessment tasks fMath Buddiesor students to complete over the summer at their own pace.  The practice pages can be a little challenging to navigate, but with some initial guidance, students should be able to complete the tasks independently.

Both programs require the school to purchase annual student and/or teacher accounts to gain access to the library of lessons. There are Homeschool accounts available. Expect a price tag of around $30 per student depending on the number of accounts purchased.

matholia logoAnother, more affordable option new to the US market is Matholia. Matholia was developed by two teachers from Singapore and has been used by teachers and students in Singapore as well as several other countries. This program also includes a library of video tutorials, practice and assessment tasks as well as fact fluency tasks and games.

The videos are easy to understand and are also strategically scaffolded for student understanding. The practice and assessment tasks are intuitive and easy for students to navigate. As with the other programs, teachers can assign tasks for students to complete over the summer.

Matholia also requires the school to purchase annual student accounts (teacher accounts are free) but is much more affordable at just $8 per student.

Don’t forget the concrete…

I can’t go without saying that any of these options will give students practice, but struggling students need more than just extra practice working through math problems.  They need more time in the concrete phase of learning using manipulatives; base-ten blocks, place value chips, model building with connecting cubes or paper strips, fraction strips or circles, etc.  So, please, consider not only sending these students home with books and login IDs but also with a bag of manipulatives for hands-on learning and practice.

Beach_of_Dreams_BeautifulNow…back to dreams of lazy mornings and time to relax and recharge.  Have a great summer and rest assured that your students will be prepared for the next grade with a little summer math work.

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Great Math News from City Springs School In Baltimore

For the last year, I’ve been working with City Springs Elementary/Middle School in Baltimore. Here’s a short description from the school’s website:

City Springs Elementary/Middle School is a neighborhood charter school operated by the Baltimore Curriculum Project (BCP). We are a conversion charter school, which means we were an already existing Baltimore City Public School that was taken over by an outside operator to bring innovative and research-based curriculum and other programs to enhance the school. To learn more about BCP, click here.

City Springs logoInitially, the school was seeking help with its Middle School math. After I made a pair of on-site visits at the end of the 2014-2015 school year, Dr. Rhonda Richetta, Principal of City Springs, decided to adopt Singapore’s Primary Mathematics Common Core Edition.

I’ve returned to City Springs periodically this year to provide continuing support as the school’s teachers and coaches adopted a Singapore Math® curriculum. The school is making remarkable progress, and I want to share stories written by some of City Springs’ dedicated teachers about the students’ growth during the year.

I’ve clipped an excerpt from each story with teachers’ observations and very valuable insights about the program and why it is working so well for their students. Please click on the links to read complete stories from the school’s website. I love the photos of students showing off their skills and having fun with math!

Ms. Schoenleber: Introducing Singapore Math  (November 2015) “Classroom manipulatives have helped our kids get better at problem solving and justifying their answers for tough math problems.”

Ms. Hagemann: It’s More than Just a Game (November 2015) “One way to get stronger in mental math is by use math-based games to reinforce basic concepts and encourage mathematical thinking…Students in Ms. Hageman’s class love mental math games!”

Ms. Smith: Moving Ahead in Mathh (February 2016) “Singapore Math has been very challenging but it has also been very rewarding, and they have especially loved the use of manipulatives in class.”

Ms. Barry: Stepping Up to the Ratio Challenge (February 2016) “Ratio problems can be really tricky. Sometimes these multi-step problems are so challenging that we spend 15, 30, or even 45 minutes on one problem! Our students love to rise to the challenge, and have grown so much in their math skills with these complex problems.”

Ms. Barry’s also class wanted to challenge readers to solve a ratio problem they worked on. How did you do?

Ms. Lineberry:  Introducing Fractions  (May 2016) “At first, we struggled to figure fractions out. Trying to wrap our minds around halves and fourths proved difficult at first. Things became a little clearer after we started using “manipulatives,” hands-on objects used to illustrate math concepts.”

Ms. Williams: Knowing All the Angles (May 2016) “Students began their geometrical journey by learning how to measure angles…Later, they will start learning to measure geometric angles made by two lines emanating out of the center of a circle, and eventually beginning exploring the complex world of geometry formulas.”

Working with City Springs has been one of the most rewarding and enjoyable assignments of my career. Teachers have embraced the challenge of adopting a new program and students are making wonderful progress. I can’t wait to see their growth in Year Two! Thank You, City Springs!

[Full disclosure: My work assignment at City Springs is contracted through Staff Development for Educators.] Scridb filter

How can I fit it all in?

In 2015, Beth wrote about the Primary Mathematics adoption process at St. Anne’s-Belfield School. Here’s an update on the school’s progress.

stab_logoAs the year winds down and I look back at all that my students have learned this past year, I still feel panicked at what’s left to be covered.  This is the end of a 3-year adoption cycle of Primary Mathematics and while I’ve been able to cover more curriculum than in the previous 2 years, I am still left wondering, “How can I fit it all in?”

In the fall of 2013, we adopted the Primary Mathematics curriculum in Kindergarten through sixth grades.  We knew this would come with its challenges but felt strongly that if we were going to offer our students the “world’s best mathematics curriculum,” then we needed to offer it to all, not just those who made the K, 1, 2 cut.

With this plan, we knew there would be time spent filling in holes in our first year, teaching skills and concepts that the students were missing, and building a solid foundation in number sense and place value.  We accepted the fact that we would not cover all of the curriculum that first year, and worked with Cassy Turner to develop a sequence for each grade level that included teaching critical lessons from prior grade levels.

Year 2Beth with grade 4 student

In the second year, teachers were feeling a sense of relief.  We’d made it through that challenging first year.  We experienced the curriculum from start to finish, well – at least our version of it, and we felt confident.  We weren’t faced with the need to back-teach (as much). Our students entered the year having learned and retained a deeper understanding of those critical math concepts.

With Cassy’s advice, we created a new plan for our second year.  We knew the lessons that had been skipped the previous year and teachers worked together to map out a Kindergarten through sixth-grade sequence that allowed us to get further through the content, and more importantly, accounted for previously omitted lessons.  If we didn’t teach a lesson on geometry to our third graders our first year, we made sure those students would get those lessons in fourth grade our second year.

The year ended, and our standardized test scores showed slight increases in problem solving and algebra readiness, both areas of statistical concern with our previous curriculum.

Year 3

Entering year three, we felt confident in our abilities to deliver lessons.  Along with our students, our staff had developed a deeper, conceptual understanding of math.  We were able to effortlessly explain new concepts, differentiate on the fly, and anticipate misconceptions.  We incorporated anchor tasks, journaling and finally had a grasp on how to effectively use all of the materials.

We entered the year with the goal of teaching the entire curriculum.  Halfway through the year we were teaching material nearly a month ahead of our previous two years and felt really good about it.  Then came…

  • rehearsals for performances
  • grandparents’ day presentations
  • spring field trips…
  • field day…
  • and all sorts of other school commitments.

By April, we had just about lost the scheduling lead that we had enjoyed in December.

So, here I find myself once again faced with the task of choosing one lesson over another and prioritizing the importance of skills and concepts that I may or may not have the time to teach.  Fortunately, the list to choose from is smaller than in the years before. I’ve been able to cover almost all of the material, nearly reaching the goal.

I consider myself lucky to have been in a situation of specializing in math in the lower grades over the past 3 years.  I have been able to experience the strengths of the sequence, which in my mind, is one of the pillars of success of a Singapore Math curriculum.  Going forward, I know it will be easier to thoughtfully prioritize content to eliminate the risk of creating gaps or holes in student learning that could potentially weaken their foundation.

As I leave the school, I look forward to bringing this wealth of knowledge that I gained over the past 3 years to Math Champions and look forward to assisting other schools that are facing the question of, “How can I fit it all in?”

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Bar Model Solutions – by Students

After the post on Assessing Bar Model Solutions went up, Beth Curran sent a message: “We just did that problem!” She agreed to share some student work:

boys and girls 2

boys and girls 3

boys and girls 5

And when the students didn’t draw a model:

boys and girls 4

I see this as a comparison problem:

thinking blocks

5 units -> 125 students
1 unit -> 125 ÷ 5 = 25
7 units for boys -> 7 x 25 = 175 boys in all

(That’s the Thinking Blocks Model Drawing tool that allows you to insert your own word problems and solve – or you can use the pre-made questions!)


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