One of the biggest ideas to come from Singapore is the concept of teaching mathematics for mastery. In simple terms it means spending enough time on a topic in order to comprehend it thoroughly. Teaching for mastery also means that children spend a consolidated amount of time on a topic to understand how it relates to concrete experiences. This is based on a whole body of research by educational psychologists and specialists, which manifests itself in a carefully selected sequence of lessons that children go through (I can go into more detail on this in another post). It took the Singapore education system decades to perfect the idea of maths mastery and it is still undergoing improvements.
When talking to teachers and department heads, I often hear that Year 5 and 6 pupils aren’t really equipped to problem solve. This is a widespread problem – it doesn’t exist only in the UK. The 1983 Cockcroft report said we need to put problem solving at the heart of the mathematics education, but how do we do it? The Maths mastery that children have acquired using the Singapore approach gives them the fluency they need in number sense, recognising patterns and seeing connections, and visualisation – the three key components to problem solving.
On one of my school visits this week, we took an example from a Year 6 workbook from the My Pals are Here series and went over how children can solve this problem, particularly if they have benefited from having acquired mathematics mastery.