The Impact of Singapore Math at MPA

[Note: I’ve enjoyed working with Mounds Park Academy (MPA) in Saint Paul, Minnesota, since 2014. For the last three years, MPA has generously hosted our annual Jumpstart Your Singapore Math Instruction workshops.]
Renee Wright

I was thrilled to read a January 9, 2020, blog post, “The Impact of Singapore Math at MPA,” written by Lower School Director Renee Wright. It is a brief, but thorough, overview that anyone considering a Singapore program should read.

Renee recounts some of the many reasons the school chose to adopt a Singapore program in kindergarten through fifth grade six years ago, including:

Singapore Math meets the needs of all learners, provides extra practice and support for students when necessary, and is inherently challenging for the advanced math student.

To illustrate her point, Renee invites readers to consider a word problem assigned to fourth graders:

Mrs. Wright, Dr. Hudson, and Ms. Tesdahl all wrapped lots of presents over the holidays. Mrs. Wright wrapped four times as many as Dr. Hudson (remember, she has grandchildren!), and Ms. Tesdahl wrapped 3 more than half as many as Mrs. Wright. Together they wrapped 31 presents. How many presents did Dr. Hudson wrap?

She notes that this is a challenging problem for Lower School students and maybe even readers. But:

Believe it or not, fourth-graders at Mounds Park Academy approached this problem with confidence and were successful in finding the solution.

Renee includes data to document student success:

We can carefully examine the longitudinal data and impact of Singapore Math. One way is to review ACT Aspire assessment data collected over the past several years to determine if our students’ scores have shown improvement. Our student data has been compared to national percentiles and independent school benchmarks and it shows that our students have made steady gains in math concepts and usage.

She also includes anecdotal evidence from several teachers, including: Renette Stinson and Shelley Steingraeber (third grade); Deedee Stacy and Yamini Kimmerle (fourth grade); and Chris Peterson (fifth grade). Deedee and Yamini said:

Singapore Math is designed to give students an extremely well developed mathematical foundation, and to challenge them daily to apply mathematical concepts in new situations. Our students at MPA love to learn, and Singapore Math makes that happen!

And what did students say?

…third graders [said] that Singapore Math is challenging, but fun! One student identified the mental math emphasis as something that helps him use math every single day. Another student said she used to hate math but now she loves it because Singapore Math makes sense.

Finally, Renee offers her reflections:

Today, as an administrator looking at the data, hearing from the teachers, and feeling the enthusiasm for math from our students, I know that adopting Singapore Math was the right decision. It has served our students well and is aligned with the college preparatory nature and foundational mission of our school. I am so proud of the time, attention, and effort our teachers have put into teaching the Singapore curriculum. I acknowledge and celebrate the math success our students have had daily in the classroom due to the Singapore Math curriculum and feel confident they are ready for their future journey of higher level math.

Events Recap – Jumpstart your Singapore Math® 2018

We were thrilled to welcome teachers, coaches, specialists and administrators from 18 states to our Jumpstart your Singapore Math® Instruction workshops this summer.

We are so very grateful that you took time from your summer to join us….And we are delighted that you found it valuable!

Scenes from Jumpstart 2018

What Attendees said about Jumpstart 2018

I have been in education for over a decade, and this has been one of the most engaging, practical, and meaningful Professional Development opportunities of my career. Thank you to these amazingly bright and helpful experts!

-Keith Grifffin, 1st and 2nd grade Math Specialist, City Academy School, St. Louis, MO

As an administrator, this training was invaluable to my understanding of the Singapore approach to teaching math!

-Melanie Stivers, 5-8 Principal, Springfield Christian School, Springfield, IL

This is the best training I’ve been to. Every minute was enjoyable and educational. I feel better going into the school year and am excited to teach the Singapore way. It was life changing and mind blowing!

-Jen Irish, 3rd Grade Teacher, Terra Academy, Vernal UT

There were so many things I was unsure how to teach in Singapore Math. Cassy and Beth explained the elements in layman’s terms so I could understand the material myself, then showed us, from a student’s perspective, how to solve the problems with a logical approach. The biggest difference between this training and others was, I didn’t feel like I had to be a Math expert to teach the curriculum.

-Penny Hagerman, Interventionist, 3-5, Vanguard Classical School West, Aurora, CO

Truly appreciated the lesson planning information. The teacher’s guide does not have enough information to assist teachers with teaching strategies. I feel I can teach better and help my students better understand and build on the concepts. Awesome Class!

-Cheryl Kenney, 1st Grade Teacher, Augustine Christian, Tulsa, OK

Thanks to Jumpstart 2018 Hosts

Clayborne Education – Charlottesville, VA
Augustine Christian Academy – Tulsa, OK
Liberty Common School – Fort Collins, CO
Mounds Park Academy – Saint Paul, MN

We will announce details regarding 2019 Workshops soon. If you would like to receive notice of upcoming workshops and are not already on our email list, please complete our Training Needs Survey or give us a call.

 

Structuring the Math Day

One of the questions I get most often is:

How do I use the materials with my Singapore Math curriculum and fit it all into an hour math block?

First off, kudos to your school for setting aside an hour math block for your youngest learners! Through math instruction, students will gain the skills and thought processes necessary to solve problems. Math needs to be given a priority in the schedule. Following is one of my favorite quotes from Dr. Yeap Ban Har, author, and contributor to several Singapore Math style curriculum.

“We are not teaching math. We are teaching thinking through the medium of math.”

What should I include in my lessons?
  • Ongoing cumulative review
  • Direct instruction
  • Guided practice
  • Independent practice
How much time should I spend on each component?

10 minutes – Ongoing Cumulative Review
20 minutes – Direct Instruction
30 minutes – Guided and Independent Practice

What does each component consist of?
Ongoing Cumulative Review (10 minutes)

According to Steven Leinwand, in his book Accessible Mathematics: 10 Instructional Shifts that Raise Student Achievement, in every classroom there should be signs of: 

A deliberate and carefully planned reliance on ongoing, cumulative review of key skills and concepts.

As you teach concepts, you will want to include them in your ongoing cumulative review. With such an emphasis on mental math strategies and the development of number sense, mental math should play a major role in your daily review.

Mental Math can be practiced through the use of:

Direct Instruction (20 minutes)

  • Teacher directed (follow the plan in the Teacher’s Guide)
  • Through student exploration (also known as, an Anchor Task)

Guided Practice (30 minutes combined with Independent Practice)

  • Textbook problems can be worked:
    • Whole group answering problems on individual whiteboards,
    • With partners working through problems together, or
    • Individually

Independent Practice (30 minutes combined with Guided Practice)

  • Workbook problems
    • As home enjoyment
    • As classwork
  • Fluency practice

Comment below with your questions or concerns about structuring your math day!

Throwback Thursday – It can’t all be Singapore Math…

Over the summer, we thought it would be fun to run some of the most popular posts from the past. Here’s a look at some misconceptions around Singapore Math and Common Core Standards. When I re-read a post from the past I always take away something different because I am in a different place with my own experience. Perhaps you are as well!


It can’t all be Singapore Math…

Originally published 12/29/2014

This tweet posted by the National Council on Teacher Quality (@NCTQ) caught my eye:

NCTQ_Tweet

Now, I’ve heard decomposing called “branching” but can’t remember ever seeing this in a Singapore textbook. Where did this problem come from?

It’s nice that NCTQ recognizes Singapore’s Math as “tops in the world.” But it’s discouraging to see methods and terminology that are not a part of the Singapore curriculum attributed to it. Especially in the context of the nasty debate about CCSS. And especially since Singapore’s math curriculum–with its rigor, coherence, and focus–is often cited as a basis for more rigorous standards, including CCSS.

The problem posted is based on the concept of “Number Bonds,” which calls for students to decompose numbers (this is the term used in Singapore and in all major Singapore Math® textbooks distributed in the U.S.). Below, I’ve posted some examples of how this concept is presented in Singapore Math® series available in both the U.S. and Singapore.

This matter points to my BIG concern: As publishers and others adapt Singapore’s Math for the American market, new approaches creep in. These often are not based on the curriculum that helped Singapore’s students go from mediocre to best in the world in a dozen years. I’ve written about this in my comparison of Singapore math textbook series available in the United States.

So my plea to NCTQ: please use examples from an actual Singapore mathematics text when citing the components that make it so successful. And feel free to ask if I can help you find those examples.

Number Bonds problems in Singapore Math® textbooks

Here are some materials covering Number Bonds and “decomposing” numbers from actual Singapore textbooks:

From My Pals are Here, the most-used materials in Singapore:

MPAH 3A Mental Addition

From the U.S. Edition of Primary Mathematics, available in North America since 2003:

PM US 3A Mental Addition

From the Common Core Edition of Primary Mathematics, released in the U.S. market in 2014:

PM CC 3A Mental Addition_0001

And finally, from Math in Focus:

MiF_3a_mental_math

 

UPDATE:

Ugh! One more similar tweet from NCTQ.

NCTQ_tweet_#2

 

 

 

Event Recap: Jumpstart Your Singapore Math Instruction

[Several teachers from Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis attended Jumpstart. We are stunned and saddened by the news of the explosion at Minnehaha’s Upper School and our thoughts are with the Minnehaha community and families of the victims.]

Beth Curran and I had wonderful time hosting Jumpstart Your Singapore Math Instruction, our recent two-day workshop (and first self-produced event) in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Our goal: to offer an intensive learning opportunity covering all the essential elements of Singapore’s highly-acclaimed math program, including strategies, number sense, model drawing, and curriculum.

We were thrilled to be surrounded by such an enthusiastic group of co-learners, including teachers from many of the region’s finest schools and some from as far away as California.

What did teachers say about their experience?

I couldn’t imagine teaching this year without this class. It was amazing!

-Joanne Pilon, 6-8 Math, Holy Family Academy

Wonderful experience! Amazing! Thank You!!!

-Sarah Gerlach, 2nd Grade Teacher, St. Raphael Catholic School

OUTSTANDING!! After all of our training, it’s all making sense now. I LOVE IT!!

-Kim Schafer, 4th Grade, Breck School

Amazing and informative CEU that I can apply instantly to my teaching practices.

-Sharleen Blanco, Kindergarten Teacher, Excell Academy

Very informative, fun, and safe space to learn about and practice Singapore Math. Thank you!

-Terri Browne, TA, Minnehaha Academy

Excellent Course. Great crash course in Singapore Math. It was very informative and super fun!

-Anita Juntilla, 4th Grade, St. Raphael Catholic School

Thanks to Kari Kunze, Director of Studies at Mounds Park Academy, for allowing us to use their facilities and her exceptional hospitality. Special thanks to DeeDee Stacy, an MPA 4th grade teacher and long-time fan of Primary Mathematics.

We plan to offer Jumpstart and other workshops for teachers and math aficionados in the future.  If you are interested in attending or hosting one of our programs in the future, please complete the form below: