I have strong memories of one of my first Maths lessons in primary school. In front of me were all these sum which I did not have a clue what they meant. Seated next to me was a classmate who had the task of explaining to me how to do them. She used her fingers to show me that. 7 + 8 – 3 = 12. It was certainly obvious to to her but I was clueless. It left a strong impression in my mind after all these years. I am still able to visualise the scene – she was sitting next to me on my right. I did not dare look at her face as I was embarrassed for not understanding the teacher.
Looking back, I think my inability to comprehend the mathematical concepts had a lot to do with my weak ability in the English language added to the lack of exposure of the concept of adding and subtracting with numerical numbers. So no matter how many times it was explained to me, it did not mean anything to me.
Singapore Maths has gained popularity in educational circles over the years significantly due to the consistently high performance of Singaporean students in the Word PISA rankings. When I had to decide on what Math curriculum to use for my children 8 years ago, I decided on using the Singapore Maths curriculum. I researched online, consulted a Singaporean Mathematics teachers and worked through the books with my children. I am so pleased to say that their experience has been so much more fulfilling than my own learning journey in Maths as a child. We are currently on the final book of the My Pals are Here Series (published by Marshall Cavendish).
Here are some of the highlights our our journey:
1. Concrete before Abstract
A number on paper represents a concrete item of that quantity. A fraction made up of numbers represents a physical amount which can vary in size – half of a 9″ pizza is smaller than half of a 12″ pizza. Numbers represent something. This principle is applied in the Singapore Maths books, with the aim of teaching to Mastery in the Primary Years.
The introductory page to the topic of Prime Numbers, Highest Common Factor and Lowest Common Factor – New Syllabus Mathematics 1 (Shinglee Publishers). This is a series for the Secondary years which are currently using. Available on the Maths No Problem site and Amazon.
2. Formulae and Theories are derived and have applied in real life
I have memorised various formulae and theories in my life just because I was told that was the key to solve a Maths problem. I did it because I wanted to pass my exams. The pressure propelled me to do it. As we Home Educate, my kids did not have exams pressure. Through the various activities in the text books we have together explored why the Volume of a Cuboid is the Product of its Length, Breadth and its Height. What is the principle behind multiplication tables. We recently switched back to using Singapore Maths books for the Middle School years after using UK Maths text books. I am actually looking forward to learning more about all the formula I had learnt during my Middle School years!
3. Critical Thinking Skills.
While numerical numbers are kept simple in the early years, the extent of exposure to problem solving skills is developed broadly each year. Through learning the Bar Modelling Method, children are taught to solve problem solving skills using their newly acquired knowledge. Sometimes I felt I was doing ‘mental gymnastics’ if I am honest. There were challenging moments. We have laughed, gotten frustrated and been baffled together. But through it, I have seen my children develop critical thinking, thinking out of box and along the way developing grit.
4. A Love for Maths
I am so proud of how LMW and JMW grown in their learning journey in the area of Maths. Both are have different natural abilities mathematically. However, neither of them have any fear of Maths. Both recognise the need to keep growing in their Mathematical skills as there is always room for improvement.
The Singapore Maths model has been used in Home schooling circles in North America for some years. Many different school systems internationally have adopted the model. Text books based on the model have been written to match the National Curriculum. The UK version has been recently published. The site Maths– No Problem! is a good place to start if you are interested in know more about the Singapore Maths.