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Singapore math - some updates

By Murray Bourne, 01 Sep 2007

There was a flurry of interest in Singapore Math when it was introduced in the US in the late 1990s. [See this Washington Post article Looking East for Math Techniques from Mar 2000.]

Interest waned somewhat when the burden of No Child Left Behind consumed American schools. There was no time for Singapore Math-style enrichment since everyone was too busy preparing for standardized tests. Ironically, Singapore Math was introduced in the US in the first place because it was seen as rigorous and was rooted in a standardised test system.

Having lived in Singapore now for over 10 years and taught mathematics here, I have followed the Singapore Math story quite closely.

Don’t believe the stereotype that all Singaporean (and by extension, all Asian) students are math whizzes. The best are excellent, yes, but there are still plenty of them who struggle with all the usual difficulties: algebra, trigonometry, logarithms, calculus. And with Singapore’s quite rigid ’there is no room for failure’ pressure, there are many students who just cannot wait to finish their mathematics traumas., who claim to be the "official distributors" of Singapore Math text books, have a brief history at Singapore Math Story.

Now for some updates. dispels some Myths about Singapore Math. They also have links to the TIMMS reports (showing Singapore’s #1 math position) and American Institutes for Research (AIR) study, "What the United States Can Learn From Singapore’s World-Class Mathematics System".

Don’t miss the extensive FAQs (several pages) on the site.

Dave Marain over at MathNotations blog has some posts about Singapore Math: Singapore Math - Primary Math 6B Placement Test... and Singapore Math - Part II - It isn’t just the materials!. I found it interesting in the discussions how US teachers are nervous about giving a non-calculator test to their students.

So there you go. As Singapore moves away from rigid standardised tests to more Western-style creativity and interdisciplinarity, the US moves in the opposite direction towards a more rigid standardised testing system.

The great Education Experiment continues...

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