Singapore Math is winning over not only teachers and experts in education, but also students and their parents. Many authors present this method as an answer to almost every educational problem and a solution for every student, but what are the facts? How is Singapore math better than other math programs and who benefits from using it the most?
What is Singapore math?
The term Singapore math is usually used in reference to two math curricula used in the United States: Primary Mathematics and Math in Focus. These curricula are based on math teaching methods used in Singapore – Primary Mathematics follows those methods very closely, while Math in Focus contains parts of material designed specifically for US students.
Singapore math presents a very original approach to teaching math, where theory is reduced to the absolute minimum and students engage in doing exercises, which are very concrete and practical. Singapore math presents also unique methods of solving math problems. These methods include pictorial representations, such as bar modeling.
Singapore math’s number one goal is to improve children’s understanding of math, therefore the material covered by the method is organized from simple to complex and teachers are encouraged to spend as much time as necessary explaining and practicing solving math problems with the Singapore math method.
Who benefits from the implementation of Singapore math?
Unlike other math teaching solutions, which are designed for a specific group of students, either those with learning difficulties or exceptionally bright kids, Singapore math can be used by all students, who want to improve their math skills. Research studies conducted on classes, which implemented Singapore math programs, show that the new method successfully improved test scores of underperforming kids and top students in class.
Singapore math can be also used to teach students with learning difficulties, such as dyscalculia, because of the method’s emphasis on concrete objects and pictorial representations. Students, who have problems grasping the abstract definitions and formulas will find Singapore math much easier to learn.
When Singapore math is not a good idea?
Although the method is really innovative and effective, not everyone will benefit from its implementation. To achieve best results and the most spectacular improvement of math skills, Singapore math should be taught from kindergarten/ first grade up. Students, who are taught Singapore math in high school will have problems understanding what is going on.
Singapore math classes can be also quite expensive: schools, which want to use this method have to buy Singapore math books every year. This will have a direct influence on schools’ budgets and the costs of studying in one of those schools. Singapore math also requires regular attendance: students, who miss classes can quickly fall behind, because the method does not include any extra time for revisiting familiar concepts.
If one topic was already covered during the school year, the teacher will not return to it, assuming that everyone have already mastered it. This makes Singapore math a less desirable choice for nomadic students, who change locations frequently, or anyone, who cannot regularly attend math classes.
Marta Gromadzka is a writer and editor with a wide variety of experience, including writing for websites internationally and editing books on many different subjects and in a variety of formats.