For the last several decades, the country of Singapore has consistently scored in the top ten of international math rankings. Thus, their unique approach to mathematics should be of particular interest to schools in the United States, a country which has consistently ranked poorly in these same studies. Why is Singapore Mathematics so effective and does it fit into a classical curriculum?
Singapore Math easily fits into the equation of a classical curriculum because it capitalizes on each child’s natural abilities in every stage of his or her development, one of the goals of a classical school.
“The sequence of topics in Singapore math has been carefully constructed based upon child development theory,” says Jeffery Thomas, president of Singapore Math Inc., the primary producer of Singapore math products for the U.S. market.
This program presents mathematical concepts in a way that mirrors a child’s natural learning process, moving from the concrete to the pictorial to the abstract. Thus, students first “build it”, then “see it”, and, finally, “think it”.
“Multum non multa”, Latin for “much not many”, is another key component of a classical school. The classical school aims to cultivate a mastery of a few concepts rather than a shallow understanding of a diverse array of topics.
Likewise, the Singaporean curriculum focuses on a few key concepts but in greater depth. In the Grammar Stage in particular, great emphasis is placed on the mastery of math facts and place value, two key concepts in later mathematical understanding.
Thus, Singapore students learn how an equation works, instead of memorizing a seemingly endless string of formulas. An emphasis on a mastery of the basics enables students to understand material on a deeper level, ensuring that students can accomplish more complex problems at an earlier age.
Thomas states, “the means to mastery is problem solving, and the beauty of the approach is that the majority of students are well prepared to tackle increasingly difficult topics, such as fractions and ratio, when they are introduced in the third through fifth grades. Those students are also then typically ready for algebra and geometry in middle school.”
Finally, the way in which material is presented in Singapore Math allows teachers numerous opportunities to integrate other disciplines into their daily math routine. Spelling, penmanship, and phonics are just a few of the other disciplines that SJPII teachers have been able to utilize during math class.
For more information on the Singaporean method and program, read the articles listed below:
- Making Math Lessons as Easy as…-New York Times
- What’s Singapore Math-PBS
- Singapore Math is Popular Among Educators-Asian Scientists