Singapore math is three things
- The methods used to teach pupils mathematics in Singapore.
- The books used to teach children in Singapore.
- The professional development that supports teachers.
Methods – Stop Torturing Children and Work With Them Instead
Singapore maths is a method of teaching mathematics which emphasises problem solving. It works with people’s ability to visualise things, recognise patterns and make decisions. It does not resort to rote learning, memorisation or other tedious tactics that put most people off mathematics at a very early age. The goal is to make sure people understand what is going on and that they are not performing procedures that don’t make any sense to them. There is very little reliance on tedious calculations, memorisation and meaningless repetition as those things don’t help anyone to become a thinker; and creating thinkers is the goal.
Books – Didactics Matter
What you learn, how deep you go into the topic and in what order you learn it are all important. Free lessons downloaded from the internet cannot offer this: there is no guarantee that one lesson will lead meaningfully to another. Many schools and teachers rely on freely available lessons from the internet, or cobble together resources from a variety of sources. This approach, because of the lack of continuity from lesson to lesson or from year to year, means that mathematics is reduced to a series of unrelated facts. Meanwhile, Singapore has been producing and refining amazing books (yes, real books!) for 30 years. These books carefully take students through a journey that ensures they are having the right learning experience at the right time, enabling them to make the necessary connections between the different things they have learned. The books are highly scrutinized by the authors, publishers, consultants and the Ministry of Education. This peer review process is a very effective quality control system. People are amazed when I tell them that Singapore schools prefer books over interactive whiteboards in the classroom. The results speak for themselves.
Didactics and Mathematics
The teacher plays a crucial role in bringing the well-thought-out and well-planned material to life. In order to do so, they should be fully trained in methodologies such as the concrete, pictorial, abstract approach. Knowing how to assess progress continuously and to use that information to vary how lessons are taught is a skill teachers must master. There are many learning theories that have gone into the development of Singapore maths that teachers need to be aware of.