WARNING: THERE IS MORE TO SINGAPORE MATH THAN THE CLASSROOMEven critics of the Singapore Math program could not object to the proclaimed objectives of teaching students to the mastery level, using real world situations for problem solving, and encouraging communication in math. After all, these same goals have been recommended by the National Council of Teachers of Math for decades. Everyone interested in math wants our children to love math, not just tolerate it through 11 or 12 years of compulsory education.
And even the critics may not call enough attention to the need for out-of-school support if students are to achieve that mastery of basic arithmetic concepts. The Singapore Math classroom curriculum stresses conceptual understanding to the delight of advocates, but procedural and skills proficiencies are often the under-reported secondary requirements that critics demand and that are an integral part of Singapore's education program.
Unlike the American system in which “school” ends at 2:30 and is replaced by dance class, sports, and other extracurricular activities, in the country which inspired Singapore Math, nearly every student receives supplementary homework assignments, as well as additional rehearsal through math clubs and “after school tuition classes” like our tutoring services. The reported 1995 (http://nces.ed.gov/pubs99/1999081.pdf) through 2007 (http://nces.ed.gov/timss/table07_1.asp) math success in Singapore may be more heavily dependent on the cultural significance placed on education than we realize.
With this possibility as our hypothesis, effective implementation of Singapore Math in American schools will require at least moderate changes to our priorities. It will be necessary that after school activities devote more time and effort to the repetitive work -- those dreaded “math facts” like multiplication tables.
Practice in basic computation can be tedious for both parent and student. Multiple worksheets with 25, 50, 100 problems are boring, to be generous. A parent verbally making up sample problems is demanding. The chances are that none of us is going to follow through long enough for our kids to gain the level of skill that we would like. We need a helper.
Tutoring Resources uses a game we call “War on Integers” which is played like the familiar card game War. Contact us at www.tutoring-resources.com for a free copy of instructions for playing with addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division. The game encourages the student to practice in a fun way that doesn’t depend on age or grade level to “win” and promotes the much needed rehearsal.
The internet is another readily available resource. There are many sites that provide colorful, entertaining games for students from kindergarten through sixth grade and even higher. My personal favorite (because I played it with my own kids back in the day) is NUMBER MUNCHERS. I have it on floppy disk (I did mention that it was “back in the day”) but for today’s electronically-literate youth, it’s available for iTunes, iPhone, and iPad Touch.
Other sites to explore include
www.wallofgame.com (Number Munchers is available on this site.)
www.Sheppardssoftware.com (A listing of several useful sites.)
www.IXL.com (This one makes it easy to access appropriate games by grade level and even goes through Algebra.)
www.Cool.math-games.com (This site may not be as distracting for kids who are accustomed to websites as it was for me, but I would not recommend it for anyone with focus and concentration issues.)
As a general rule, games will require dexterity with either arrows or a mouse. I found them all easier to play on a desktop than laptop computer.
Want more suggestions? Just search the web for ‘math games’ and be prepared to spend considerable time checking out a myriad of sites that might appeal to the specific interests of your student -- and playing a few yourself. I lost more than a few minutes on the pop-up www.ahhhhh.com, which is apparently a soft drink website ad, as mezmerizing as it is subliminal.
If our kids are going to get the promised rewards from Singapore Math, parents need to make it a point to provide the supplements that will fill in the gaps. Luckily, plenty of resources are available to make our job easier.