Delaware School District Succeeds Using Singapore Math

Saturday, March 12th, 2011


A Delaware school district has successfully implemented Singapore Math, raising enjoyment, understanding, and test scores. This article describes their success. Here is one example:

Mount Pleasant Elementary Principal Joyce Skrobot did not need to be convinced to add Singapore math to the curriculum. Her school piloted the program over the past four years in some second-grade classes, and, on state tests, they outperformed the classes that did not use the math, she said.

“It really establishes a strong foundation of math skills with a lot of repetition,” she said. “It’s a very concrete approach to teaching.”

The district plans to offer parent workshops to explain the differences in the Singapore approach, a key component of long-term success.

Video: Learning to Calculate With Ten-Frames: Singapore Math

Saturday, March 12th, 2011


A video demonstrating how ten frames can be used to develop number sense was posted at (They disabled embedded on external sites, so you will have to click to see it.)

The video shows progression from counting-on with touching, or the concrete stage, to the pictorial stage of being able to look at ten frames and see how many dots are present. Early in the video, it says the child is a kinesthetic learner, which may be true, but touching the objects is a natural early stage for anyone. So touching the objects doesn’t necessarily mean the child is a kinesthetic learner, but they may be at the concrete stage of learning a certain concept.

The clip does a nice job of showing how a teacher can help a student one-on-one (though I would have liked to see the teacher doing more guiding and less instructing), but what about teaching larger groups of children? There are always issues of permission when dealing with groups; however, I think it would help teachers if they could see how to use this in a larger setting. This is something I can model when offering professional development at a school visit.

Common Core State Standards and Singapore Math

Sunday, March 6th, 2011


In August 2010, produced a report comparing the Common Core State Standards with the Singapore Math syllabus. I found the report interesting, as it showed that there are many similarities between these standards and Singapore’s syllabus, though in some ways, the CCSS document is clearer in its expectations. Also, Singapore uses the British system of O-level and A-level achievement. Their O-level high school curriculum is slightly less rigorous than ours, but their A-level curriculum is more rigorous than our standard high school curriculum.

I drew the conclusion from reading the report that adopting Singapore Math could be a positive step towards aligning to the CCSS.

Achieve is an independent non-profit dedicated to raising academic standards in the US. You can read the full report below.
Comparing the Common Core State Standards and Singapore’s Mathematics Syllabus

Why Long Division Makes No Sense

Saturday, March 5th, 2011


One of my favorite humor bloggers is Allie Brosh, author of Hyperbole and a Half. I’ve been catching up on reading her posts lately, and this one caught my eye tonight: Hyperbole and a Half: Long Division Isn't Real. (If you visit the link, just be forewarned that she uses the f-word once in her post.)

This is how she describes her mom’s attempt to teach her long division in fourth grade, the year Allie was homeschooled. (Her actual post contains an awesome drawing about it too, so visit it if you can):

My mom was like “First, you draw a line with a little hang-y tail!  Then you write the big number inside the little half-box.  Then you write the little number on the outside!  Now, divide the the little number into the littlest part of the big number that is at least as big as the little number.  It probably won’t fit exactly, but that’s okay.  Figure out how many times it fits all the way and write that number on top of the box.  Now, write the number that the little number does fit into underneath the number that it doesn’t fit into and subtract them.  Then draw a line.  Then write your answer under the line.  Then bring the next number in the big number down next to the number you just wrote.  Then hop on one foot and punch yourself in the face while singing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star… “

Does that sound familiar?

That’s the pitfall of trying to teach the “how” of long division before the student understands the concept.

Teaching students division the Singapore way – by starting with place value disks and understanding what division is, working with the concept, and gradually connecting it with the algorithm, along with learning alternative ways of dividing – has been a life (mind?) saver for my students learning to divide.

Do you have a story about long division?

TERC/Investigations: Comparison with Singapore Math

Monday, February 28th, 2011


A great article titled Waiting for Supermath came through my inbox today. It includes commentary on a video (below) of a third grader showing how she solves a four-digit addition problem using what she learns at school, or the Investigations curriculum, versus what her mother (a math intervention specialist) teaches at home, the traditional “stacking” algorithm.

What strikes me most about the video is that the first method, using the graphic model, shows what seems to me an overuse of the conceptual level of addition.

One strength of Singapore Math is that it starts with the conceptual level, which is essential, but then it moves to the abstract. In this process, the student starts with concrete representations of a problem, like manipulatives, then to pictorial or graphic representations, and finally to the algorithm, once they have mastered the concept.

But in the video, the girl starts out solving the problem with what could be drawings of base 10 blocks – and way too many of them. This is keeping her stuck at the concrete stage and leads to inefficiency and inaccuracy in her calculations.

It also strikes me, as the video points out in the end, that this method of teaching creates the myth that larger numbers are harder to calculate. Is this what we want to perpetuate in our students? I know if I had, I wouldn’t have had a group of second and third graders who decided, on their own, to learn 50 or more digits of pi.

One other note: I did use Investigations for one year in a middle school classroom. That was the year that some parents and I convinced the administration to finally adopt a curriculum that made sense. And what did they choose? Singapore Math!

Watch the video:

Book Review: You Can Count on Monsters

Thursday, February 24th, 2011


Today in my Math Mavens program, we opened the book You Can Count on Monsters by Richard Evan Schwartz for the first time. This is a book I bought because I heard glowing reviews of it on NPR.

The concept of the book is teaching prime and composite numbers through colorful, geometrical monsters. It is written for any age, from preschool on up, and my students really appreciated it. They had a lot of fun looking at the monsters, spotting the prime monsters hidden inside the composite monsters, and describing what they saw. For example, one said the 20 monster looked like “two innocent two-monsters held in custody by evil nacho chips.”

For fans of Singapore Math or number bonds in general, you will also appreciate how each number is represented with a number of dots, the numeral, and a multiplication number bond for composite numbers. All in all, it makes a powerful set of connections for students between numbers, images and fun.

The book covers numbers 1 through 100, with an introductory section that explains factoring, prime and composite numbers, and how the book is designed, all with colorful images and not too wordy. A section in the back has a further exploration of prime numbers. A wonderful enrichment for any math education!

To see inside or order the book on Amazon, click below:


Will Scardale continue to succeed despite budget issues?

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011


Scarsdale, NY is a model district in terms of scores and success. They attribute this success to five building blocks in their curriculum: Singapore Math, inquiry approaches to science and social studies, fluency in information technology, and creative arts. Yet they are having to cut teachers and programs due to budget constraints. They contrast this to China, which funded five educators to visit their district.

Will Scarsdale have to cut back on their successful programs? Meetings of the Scarsdale Forum are happening during February. Read more at this Patch article.

Fostering Creativity in Math

Friday, February 11th, 2011


We hear plenty of talk about teaching and reinforcing basic skills in math. Yes, these are very important, but computation skills aren’t what lead to breakthroughs and new discoveries; new ways of thinking do, right?

This young woman exemplifies real creativity in mathematical thinking. I find this so inspiring. Investigating mathematical principles through art: what a concept!

BugMath for iPhone/iPod Review

Monday, February 7th, 2011


A new app for iPhone/iPod, called BugMath, came out recently. It claims to teach young children math skills based on Singapore Math methods.

To experience it, I played my way through the various games, which are fun and have cute graphics. I saw how they can reinforce counting and memory skills. However, I don’t see how they are based on Singapore Math principles, so I think they are using the words “Singapore Math” as a sales gimmick.

For these ages, 3-6, the game would use a true Singapore Math approach if it integrated number stories and number bonds. Also, the addition/subtraction game is entirely too random to teach those concepts. Yes, the children can count the number of bugs to calculate the answer, but that is not unique to Singapore Math. A good math practice game would progress from easy to difficult, but this game randomizes the questions, which makes it more like a quiz than a teaching tool.

Is it a good game for young children? It makes math fun, and it’s well designed for a game (except for the Space Invaders-imitation game, which would be too challenging for the motor skills of young children). So if you would like an entertaining game that has some educational value, it’s worth the two dollars. Just don’t expect it to be a true Singapore Math-based game.

For another review, see this page.

Singapore Math Summer Programs in New York

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011


Singapore Math summer programs come to Westchester, NY! Do you have children who would benefit from a summer experience learning math in the proven Singapore Math way? Send them to the brand new program offered this summer by experienced Singapore Math teacher, instructor and trainer Susan Midlarsky. Not only will they learn a lot, but it will be fun! Find out more at Register early – space is limited!


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