### Class of 2020 Learns Math the Singapore Way

In September 2007, NBC’s Today Show launched an ambitious 13-year project to follow a school class from kindergarten through their high school graduation. Students in the Today Show’s “Class of 2020” segment are now in 3rd grade. From an episode that aired on May 2, 2011, we learn that the class of 2020 is learning Singapore Math.

This story does a very nice job of presenting some of the key features of Singapore Math and the ways American teachers are effectively implementing it. Mrs. Kaprelian explains the curriculum’s emphasis on place values, mental math and mental flexibility with math, all leading to a firm grasp of bar modeling. Note how Mrs. Kaprelian highlights the important role of manipulatives (in this case, cubes) in the concrete -> pictorial -> abstract progression. That groundwork leads seamlessly to the use of the bar model method to solve highly complex problems.

### I Wish I Had Singapore Math

The role of parents also is addressed. Mrs. Kaprelian offers lessons to parents to introduce Singapore Math and tell them how it differs from other elementary math curricula. Initially, parents may be puzzled by Singapore Math, but typically there’s an “Ah Ha” moment when they get it and say, “I wish I had (Singapore Math).” (This is very common, I see the same reaction whenever I host Parent Nights at schools implementing Singapore Math.)

Involved parents, with knowledge of Singapore Math, on the same page with their child’s teacher…no wonder math is Eileen’s favorite subject.

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How does one get their school district to consider changing over to Singapore Math. My son is going into Kindergarten and will be using Everyday Math. Or can individual schools in a district use a different program from the rest of the district?

My first suggestion is to get your school’s teachers involved in reviewing the different curricular materials available. Bring in copies of Singapore textbooks!

Most of the schools I have worked with have been prompted to make changes from their current curriculum to Singapore Math by the teachers themselves or school administrators.

Parents have been included on curriculum review boards as well, so that might be a good place to volunteer at your school.

You might also consider following this parent’s lead and working with the media: Westport Dad Backs ‘Singapore Math’

Unfortunately, there are many challenges to changing math curriculum. Even with the international testing demonstrating a need in changes to U.S. math teaching, it is slow and difficult to get schools to review how math is taught in their school.

A sizable chunk of schools using Primary Mathematics are smaller districts and independent schools. Individual schools within a district may or may not differ from district-mandated curriculum. This depends on the local district policies and governance. For example, Schmitz Park Elementary School in Seattle, teaches Primary Mathematics in the Seattle School District which uses Everyday Mathematics. Another school in the district uses Saxon.

I got my son’s private elementary school to switch to Singapore math for a few years. After he left, another parent (less math savvy) convinced them to switch to a different curriculum.

So I got them to switch, but not to understand why the Singapore curriculum was superior. If you want a lasting change, your best bet is to get some teachers in the school convinced that the curriculum is substantially better. To do that, you have to have them understand why Singapore Primary Math is structured the way it is, and why that approach works better than the standard US curricula. This may be an uphill battle, as most US elementary teachers are math-phobic and think that group exercises and writing paragraphs about math is more fun than actually doing math.

So many people in the United States are math phobic. Had we learned math the way it is presented in Singapore Math, we would be more confident in our math abilities.