What is Singapore Math?
Teaching math to young children is an exciting challenge, especially with the changes happening in our world with STEAM/STEM, Innovative & Design thinking, Project Based Learning and the mathematical skills students need to bring to each of these disciplines.
Six years ago, the Lower School at St. Michael’s was the first school in Rhode Island to adopt Primary Mathematics, the Singapore Math program. Many teachers were used to the traditional approach to teaching mathematics. After much training through conferences, professional development speakers, webinars and in-services, we all learned more about this amazing program. Learning how to teach this program was like going back to school for many teachers. We had to rethink how we teach and adopt a new methodology. I have been very impressed with the outcome of my first grade students. They learn to problem solve and use their algebraic thinking at such a young age.
Primary Mathematics/Singapore Math is a complete program designed to equip students with a strong foundation in mathematics, topics are covered in depth and taught to mastery. By focusing on mathematical understanding, the program aims to help students develop logical thinking and critical lifelong problem-solving skills.
It focuses on mathematical thinking with immediate application of new skills to problem solving. By encouraging students to solve problems in a variety of ways, this program stretches the mind and promotes an understanding of the way mathematical processes work.
Pedagogical Approach and Methodology
This approach enables students to encounter mathematics in a meaningful way and translate mathematical skills from the concrete to the abstract. This approach allows students to understand mathematical concepts before learning the “rules” or formulaic expressions:
Students first encounter the mathematical concepts through the use of manipulatives.
- Students then move on to the pictorial stage in which pictures are used to model problems.
- When students are familiar with the ideas taught, they progress to a more advanced or abstract stage in which only numbers, notations, and symbols are used.
Model-drawing is an ingenious problem-solving strategy built into the Primary Mathematics curriculum. Students are taught to visualize and construct concrete pictures to help them make sense of word problems. The model-drawing method requires students to understand the mathematical concepts underlying word problems and equips them with a strong conceptual foundation in mathematics to solve even the most challenging problems. The model-drawing technique not only provides a powerful method for solving problems but also serves as a link to algebra. Symbolic representation of problems, the mainstay of algebra, emerges as a logical extension of the model-drawing technique.
Teaching to Mastery
Each topic is covered in detail and taught to mastery. Immediately after new concepts are taught, students are engaged with a variety of mathematically rich problems. This ensures that the focus is on the student’s deep understanding of each topic. Singapore Math is geared toward producing mathematical thinkers, and it does this by walking children through all the component parts of a problem before presenting them with the whole problem to solve.
Topics covered earlier are reviewed at higher grades and with increasing difficulty. The introduction of new concepts is built upon the mathematical concepts that students have learned earlier. Spiral progression also allows for a review of important math concepts while expanding on that foundation
Metacognition refers to the ability to monitor one’s own thought processes. In teaching student to be conscious of the strategies they use to accomplish a task, this encourages them to think of alternative means of solving problems and promotes logical thinking. Student are encouraged to be aware of how they arrive at their solutions. Alternative ways of solving the problem are provided as a form of guidance for students to check their thought processes. This is opposed to rote learning and application of formulaic strategies.