Singapore Math taught to Students around the World

    After much research and careful consideration the Brandywine School District adopted a new mathematics curriculum in grades K -6.  This implementation began in grades 4 – 6 during the 2010-11 school year and expanded to include grades K – 3 the following year.  The Primary Mathematics Standards Edition curriculum, more commonly referred to as Singapore Math was developed under the supervision of the Singaporean Minister of Education and introduced as the Primary Mathematics Series in 1982 and has remained the only series used in Singaporean classrooms for the past twenty years.  The program has a unique framework with a focus on building problem-solving skills and an in-depth understanding of essential math skills. It is closely aligned with curriculum focal points recommended by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and the Common Core State Standards.  While Singapore is a small country, about the size of Chicago, Singapore out preforms most of the world on international mathematics assessments such as the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS)  http://nces.ed.gov/timss/results11.asp. The Singapore Math curriculum is based on the math education philosophy that informs curriculum for most of the nations with top-performing students.  The curriculum, which does not depend on the kind of "spiraling" commonly used in U.S. curricula, teaches each concept to mastery and moves the students from the concrete and pictorial to the abstract before moving on.. In the Primary Mathematics curriculum ideas are not repeated from year to year, instead students build upon prior learning to develop an understanding of more advanced concepts.

     “This curriculum fits our needs perfectly, for several reasons,” stated Superintendent Mark Holodick. “It is balanced and fits in with our Learning Focused Strategies framework of instruction. It is challenging for students at all levels and will better prepare our students to compete in an international economy. It was recommended by our District's Math Council and secondary math teachers after a careful evaluation of several programs and research. It is aligned to the national Common Core standards in mathematics. And it will help us bridge the achievement gap to ensure that all of our children succeed.”

    The characteristics of the program that make it such a strong curriculum are:

    • Singapore Math emphasizes the development of strong number sense, excellent mental-math skills, and a deep understanding of place value.

    • The curriculum is based on a progression from concrete experience—using manipulatives—to a pictorial stage and finally to the abstract level or algorithm. This sequence gives students a solid understanding of basic mathematical concepts and relationships before they start working at the abstract level.

    • Singapore Math includes a strong emphasis on model drawing, a visual approach to solving word problems that helps students organize information and solve problems in a step-by-step manner.

    • Concepts are taught to mastery, then later revisited but not re-taught. It is said the U.S. curriculum prior to the adoption of the Common Core Standards was a mile wide and an inch deep.  Singapore’s math curriculum emphasizes the tenants of the Common Core and as such is an excellent program for helping our students.

    • The Singapore approach focuses on developing students who are problem solvers.

    The Primary Mathematics curriculum uses very specific strategies and progressions which enable young students to learn concepts and develop procedural fluencies.

    • Number bonds, ten frames, and place value charts
    • Model drawing and an emphasis on the concept of part-whole that precedes the teaching of model drawing
    • The connection of pictures, words, and numbers
    • Mental Math
    • Daily math class is at least 60 minutes

    During his keynote address on August 3, 2013 at the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Institute in Washington DC education guru Dylan Wiliam  http://www.dylanwiliam.net/ made the following comments about the Primary Mathematics curriculum: “The Singapore Math curriculum is so brilliant.  It focuses on concepts.  Right from first grade students are working with identity and inverse.”


    The Common Core State Standards Initiative makes the following statement: “For over a decade, research studies of mathematics education in high-performing countries have pointed to the conclusion that the mathematics curriculum in the United States must become substantially more focused and coherent in order to improve mathematics achievement in this country. To deliver on the promise of common standards, the standards must address the problem of a curriculum that is “a mile wide and an inch deep.” These Standards are a substantial answer to that challenge.”  By adopting the Primary Mathematics curriculum four years ago, the Brandywine School District is providing our students with exactly the type of classroom experiences that are called for in the Common Core Standards.  We are very fortunate to be ahead of the game when it comes to our K-6 mathematics program.