Meet Beth Curran, Singapore Math® Trainer

In 2008, I left teaching in the classroom to champion Singapore Mathematics and expand its reach to elementary schools and children everywhere. Looking back on the past eight years, I am amazed by the incredible opportunities I’ve had to help schools and teachers make math from Singapore work for every child in every classroom.

graphDemand for my training and coaching services has grown every year; recently, it has become impossible to accommodate all the schools looking for help with their math instruction.

Expanding has been on my radar for several years, but I did not want growth to affect the quality of professional development services. To take this important step, I needed a candidate who has stellar credentials as a teacher/trainer/coach AND who shares my passion for elementary math.

I’m delighted to share some exciting news. After eight years as a one-person consultancy, I am hiring my first employee.

Introducing Beth Curran

Beth Curran Preschool – 6th Grade Math Department Chair, St. Anne’s-Belfield School Singapore Math Teacher and Trainer

In a 13-year career, Beth Curran has taught mathematics in Kindergarten through 4th Grade as both a classroom teacher and a Singapore Math® specialist. Beth is currently the Lead Math Teacher and Math Department Chair at St. Anne’s-Belfield School, an independent Pre-K-12 school in Charlottesville, Virginia. At St. Anne’s, she oversaw the successful adoption of Primary Mathematics, guiding a team of teachers and partnering with administrators and parents.

Beth wrote about the St. Anne’s implementation here.

What do Beth’s Colleagues say about her impact?

The transition for our faculty to Singapore Math was daunting at first.  The unknown can always challenge teachers and schools.  Yet, Beth, as a member of a team of newly-minted math specialists, provided key expertise and wise counsel to her colleagues.  The result was a palatable sense of relief as the new math vision was manifested daily by strong instruction.  She enabled our teachers and school to move confidently in this new direction.
– Fred Chandler, Associate Head of School for Academics, St. Anne’s – Belfield School

There is a depth to Beth Curran’s teaching, and–through her example and through many discussions–she has helped me deepen my own teaching.  She prioritizes true mastery of worthy concepts.
– Karen LeMaire, Kindergarten through 4th Grade Math Specialist, St. Anne’s – Belfield School

Beth has provided professional development and ongoing support services to other Virginia schools that have implemented Singapore Math curricula, as well as hosting several informational sessions to schools interested in the Singapore approach. In addition, she has presented at State and regional math educator conferences. Beth is a dedicated, award-winning teacher, presenter, mentor and advocate of making quality mathematics education accessible to all students.

Beth says, “I’m so excited to share all that I’ve learned on my own Singapore Math journey with educators throughout the country, and beyond.”

I’m thrilled that Beth will be joining me in June. Welcome to the team, Beth!

P.S. In addition to hiring Beth, I’ve also formed a new company, Math Champions Professional Development, LLC. More on that development coming soon.

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4,000 Teachers, 100,000 Students: Celebrating 7 Years with BER

DSC_0797 (2)In 2008, I left teaching in the classroom to champion Singapore Mathematics and expand its reach to elementary schools and children everywhere. The following year, the Bureau of Education and Research (BER) gave me an amazing opportunity to pursue this goal by presenting Singapore Math workshops throughout North America.

Some attendees at my BER seminars came with prior knowledge about the Singapore curriculum, but a bigger number were being introduced to Math from Singapore for the first time.

At a Seattle workshop earlier this year, BER’s Mark Ita surprised me (and other attendees) by presenting me with a handsome plaque, which read, in part:

In Recognition of Your Distinguished Teaching and Your Outstanding Contribution to the Education Profession

4,000 Teachers, 100,000 Students

DSC_0800 (1)The stats scribbled on a Post-It Note on the back of the plaque included some tangible data to support this statement:

  • 165 Seminars
  • 4,000 Teachers
  • Over 100,000 Students
2016-05-12 (1)

Cassy with BER’s Mark Ita

It is highly satisfying to know that I have impacted this number of teachers and students through my BER presentations. On the other hand, the National Center for Education Statistics reports that there are about 35.2 million Pre-K to Grade 8 students in the United States. Clearly, there is much more work to be done!

I am very grateful to BER for giving me the opportunity to present Singapore Math workshops on their behalf over the past seven years. Sincere thanks to Rich, Boyce, Mark, Nargis, Lisa and the entire travel logistics team, and the dozens of project managers who have provided encouragement and support along the way. Thank you so much!

 

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Assessing Bar Model Solutions

It’s important in a Singapore style program for students to understand bar model drawing as a tool to help visualize relationships between the known and unknown in a word problem. It helps students see the algebraic structure in problems in a more concrete manner.  Developed by a Primary Mathematics Project team of the Curriculum Development Institute of Singapore in the 1980’s, the Model Method for problem solving (as it’s known in Singapore) was designed as a pictorial stage to help students learn abstract mathematics.

The model method has been incorporated into the Progressions documents for the Common Core State Standards for Math (CCSSM) as a “tape diagram”. The CCSSM glossary defines a tape diagram as:

“A drawing that looks like a segment of tape, used to illustrate number relationships. Also known as a strip diagram, bar model, fraction strip, or length model.”

As such, bar models are becoming ubiquitous in elementary schools. Books have been written about Singapore’s model method, my favorite being  The Singapore Model Method for Learning Mathematics:

Model Method


There’s plenty to be covered with bar models, and I thought I’d share answers to the most commonly asked questions I get from teachers on model drawing:

How do you get kids to draw models when they already know the math?
How do you assess them?

When models are introduced in Singapore textbooks, the problems are very simple and students will typically know what operation to use. The first part whole models in Primary Mathematics, Common Core Edition are in the 3A textbook:
Sum and difference

And the first part-whole model lessons in Math in Focus are in 2A:
MiF 2A models

Those are pretty easy word problems and most kids are waving their hands, with that “I KNOW the answer” look on their faces. It’s important to reiterate to students, “I’m sure you know the answer and even the equation to get there. What we’re learning today is a new way of drawing a model for our word problem so that we can work with more challenging problems in third grade. Problems like”:

A father shares $60 among his three sons and one daughter. If the daughter gets twice the amount that each son gets, how much money does his daughter receive?

or from 4A
Number of boy and girls in school

We’ll come back to that one.

When assessing word problems, the solution method is a significant part of the answer. Students should expect to show their work to get full credit for a problem. As a teacher, it’s important to keep in mind that there is no one-way to draw a bar model.

A word problem might consist of points for the method of solving as well as points for correct computation and answers. To encourage students to draw and become proficient with bar models, I have used a rubric for assessment:

  • 1 point for a representative diagram – Does the model make mathematical sense?
  • 1 point for correct labeling, including the “?”  to represent what is unknown.
  • 1 point for computation on the first step and, if more than one step…
  • 1 point for computation on the second or more steps
  • 1 point for a correct answer in a complete sentence

Let’s look at an example. This is a student-written two-step word problem from third grade:

Natasha and Analisa Meatballs

Does the bar model make sense? +1 point

Are the bars labeled? Are question marks in the correct places? +1 point

Is the computation to figure out the value of one unit correct? 384 ÷ 6 = 64 +1 point

How about the computation on the second step? 64 x 5 = 320 +1 point

Is the answer in a complete sentence? +1 point

So, what’s the deal with the 64 ÷ 6 equation? A byproduct of requiring students to show their work is that oftentimes, they will leave work on the paper, just in case. As a teacher, I love that this provides me with some insight into this student’s thought process:

I’m pretty sure I know what I’m doing, but I still am a little confused.

Which is exactly what the student said when I asked her about the extra equation. She realized her answer couldn’t be right because:

I ended up with 14 remainder 4 meatballs, and how could that happen?

Without a system to evaluate, you end up with:
Cassidy deposits moeny in the bank

I’m drawing boxes because I’m supposed to… I don’t get it.

This model doesn’t make sense. The student’s computation is slightly off, but she knows she needs to add. A teacher can also see from this model that more re-teaching and practice is necessary for this student and probably others in the class.

As students progress, the rubric may change. At the end of a unit/school year, the same problem might be worth three points; one apiece for diagram, computation, solution. I often tell students, “You don’t need to draw the model if you feel you understand the problem, however, you will be graded either all correct or all incorrect. Without the models I can’t give you partial credit for your thinking.”

Most students draw them anyway as a way to check their work. Some just start to see them in their heads. Here are a couple of examples from the end of a fractions unit in 5A

rice 3-001

rice 6-001

How would drawing a model have helped this student?

Number of boy and girls in school

 

 

 

 

 

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Oxford University Events featuring Singapore Maths (and Me!)

Photo: Pablo Fernández/Flickr Creative Commons

Photo: Pablo Fernández/Flickr Creative Commons

I’m thrilled to announce that I’ll be speaking at not just one, but two different international conferences at Oxford University in England this June. And I am deeply honored by the invitation to present a Keynote address at one. Here are the details:

researchED Maths and Science Conference

Saturday, June 11th, 2016 — Oxford’s Mathematical Institute

reseachED are holding an inaugural conference in Oxford aimed at primary and secondary maths and science teachers. I’ll be on a panel with Sue Lowndes and Dr. Fong Ho Kheong that will explore the implementation of the Singapore approach in non-Singaporean countries; what do we know, what we have learned and what should we do going forwards. I’ll be the representing U.S. contingent.

International Forum: Implications for UK practice in using the Singapore approach to teaching and learning in mathematics

Monday and Tuesday, June 13 – 14, 2016 — St. Anne’s College, Oxford

I will be speaking at two sessions at this conference. On Day 2, I’ll present a keynote entitled: You’ve adopted the Singapore approach to teaching mathematics – now what? Singapore maths curricula have a proven track record for meeting standards in mathematics. They can, however, be seen as a departure from prior curricula that teachers have used. This session will explore what teachers and senior leaders should consider throughout the implementation process.

I’ll also head up a workshop session, Filling in Knowledge Gaps: Critical lessons across the year groups.  Upper KS2 students (that’s ages 8 to 11 to Americans) frequently lack the foundations required in order to successfully follow the Singapore curriculum. In this ‘straight from the classroom’ session, we’ll discuss the critical lessons and concepts students must master before jumping into their year-level content.

I understand that registration is brisk at these sessions. Hope to see you there!

Link to event registration pages:

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New Resources, New Workshops

Printable Math ResourcesOver the last ten years, I’ve collected a lot of materials that I love to use in the classroom. Teachers are always asking for new ideas and games so I’ve created a new page: Favorite Printable Math Resources. Feel free to email your favorites to be included on this page!

 

 


2016 dates for my BER seminar, “How to Use the Best Strategies from Singapore Mathematics to Strengthen your Math Instruction” have just been released. Updated with March dates on 10/14/2015!

This overview of Singapore Math® strategies will put your students on the road to success with number sense, computation and problem solving. (Plus you a get a comprehensive resource handbook to take back to your classroom!)

Want to see Cassy, but a city near you is not on this list? If so, complete the form on the Bring Cassy to my School/Area page or send her an email.

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