“There is no such things as Singapore Maths!”
– Dr. Yeap Ban Har
Singapore Mathematics is the system of how children are taught in school (or by private tutors!), the textbooks and the professional development of the educators. It has been implemented for more than 20 years and results of Singapore children has shown that the strategies used are proven to work.
Singapore Mathematics is gaining attention in the mathematics education field internationally because Singapore students were amongst the top in OECD’s first PISA problem-solving test. Read here.
Read PISA 2012 report here.
Read TIMSS 2011 full report here.
Though we did well in these international studies, personally, I felt that these results from international tests do not show the full aspect of the success of Singapore Mathematics. This is so because as a teacher in Singapore, we know how children are also taught to be ‘exam smart’ by exposing them to a variety of questions in form of worksheets, worksheets and MORE WORKSHEETS! (not forgetting extra tuition sessions!)
Growing up in Singapore, I have experienced Singapore Mathematics both as a student (>20 years ago! Oh my!) and as an educator making Mathematics fun to learn. I see the transformation from rote learning to process learning; from the shift in focus of getting answers, to emphasising the process of doing problem solving.
To me, I feel that the success of Singapore Mathematics comes from the joy and excitement in children during Maths classes, how they apply the mathematical concepts in their daily activities and eventually, developing a positive mindset in problem solving in their life. These are possible as there is a framework in place as a guide for educators to deliver exciting and meaningful Maths lessons.
From primary to pre-university level, problem solving is the focus of Singapore’s mathematics curriculum. Different aspects of the curriculum is placed in a framework, as shown above.
The 5 inter-related components in framework stress on:
- attitudes (Attitudes)
- metacognition (Metacognition)
- conceptual understanding (Concepts/Content Strands)
- skills proficiency (Skills)
- mathematical processes (Processess)
In relation to Singapore Primary Mathematics, the outline and summary of the mathematics content (mathematics syllabus) is organised along 3 content strands with a listing of mathematical processes that cut across the 3 strands.
For easy reference, I have put the summarised content strands of primary mathematics syllabus organisation in the Concepts section.
Attitudes refer to the affective aspects of mathematics learning such as:
- beliefs about mathematics and its usefulness
- interest and enjoyment in learning mathematics
- appreciation of the beauty and power of mathematics
- confidence in using mathematics
- perseverance in solving a problem
Metacognition (the thinking about thinking) refers to the awareness of one’s thinking processes and one’s ability to control them.
How do children get aware of his/her thinking processes?
What are the different types of problem-solving strategies?
Concepts (Content Strands)
Mathematical concepts can be broadly grouped into
Summarised content strands of primary syllabus organisation are placed here.
Mathematical skills refer to
- numerical calculation
- algebraic manipulation
- spatial visualisation
- data analysis
- use of mathematical tools
- use spreadsheets and other software to learn and do mathematics
Mathematical processes refer to the process skills involved in the process of acquiring and applying mathematical knowledge. This includes
- Communication and connections
- Applications and modelling
- Thinking skills and heuristics
In addition, Singapore Primary Mathematics place an importance of using the ‘Concrete-Pictorial-Abstract’ approach in the process of problem solving.
“Chapter 2 Framework Problem Solving,” Primary Mathematics Teaching and Learning Syllabus, 2012, 13-17.