Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Making Math Lessons as Easy as 1, Pause, 2, Pause ...

A NYT article about Singapore math:

The slower pace is a cornerstone of the district's new approach to teaching math, which is based on the national math system of Singapore and aims to emulate that country's success by promoting a deeper understanding of numbers and math concepts. Students in Singapore have repeatedly ranked at or near the top on international math exams since the mid-1990s.

Franklin Lakes, about 30 miles northwest of Manhattan, is one of dozens of districts, from Scarsdale, N.Y., to Lexington, Ky., that in recent years have adopted Singapore math, as it is called, amid growing concerns that too many American students lack the higher-order math skills called for in a global economy.

For decades, efforts to improve math skills have driven schools to embrace one math program after another, abandoning a program when it does not work and moving on to something purportedly better. In the 1960s there was the "new math," whose focus on abstract theories spurred a back-to-basics movement, emphasizing rote learning and drills. After that came "reform math," whose focus on problem solving and conceptual understanding has been derided by critics as the "new new math."

Singapore math may well be a fad, too, but supporters say it seems to address one of the difficulties in teaching math: all children learn differently. In contrast to the most common math programs in the United States, Singapore math devotes more time to fewer topics, to ensure that children master the material through detailed instruction, questions, problem solving, and visual and hands-on aids like blocks, cards and bar charts. Ideally, they do not move on until they have thoroughly learned a topic.


Making Math Lessons as Easy as 1, Pause, 2, Pause ...

Jennifer S. Altman for The New York Times

Students learning Singapore math, like these fourth graders at Quaker Ridge School in Scarsdale, N.Y., use many hands-on and visual aids.

Published: September 30, 2010

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