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?

About Cassy Turner

Passionate about Singapore Math + Teacher Trainer and Coach + Treasure Hunter + Learner. Answer to the ultimate question? 42.

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