Thursday, September 22, 2011

Singapore Math

photo by Joy Newman



Today, Lisa Ann Dillon, a Primary teacher on Track A and the Math Curriculum Coordinator, addresses questions parents have about our new math curriculum.  Lisa Ann has been teaching at SLO Classical Academy for six years.


"How are things going with the adjustment to Singapore Math?"  Ask this question of parents and students from the same class and you will get as many different answers as there are students – and then some! 

We hear you.  We understand that the transition is tough at times, that the program seems amazing but you are unsure how to best help your child, that it’s moving too quickly or not challenging your student enough.  Don’t find your answer here?  I could never fit them all in.  How then do I help each of you make the most of this transitional time?  I have tried to create a list of universal helping points but that turned out to be impossible!  Instead, I have tried to address a few issues from each level.  You can apply some or all of these tips and I believe you will find them helpful.

  1. Singapore Math is a conceptually based program.  Students must spend a lot of time with the most very basic ideas in order to develop a solid understanding which can be expanded upon in coming years.  Only by spending a great deal of time in the early years with beginning concepts, do students come to own the ideas enough to apply to many different situations.
  2. Singapore Math can’t be rushed through and lessons/levels shouldn’t be skipped.  There is not a wasted lesson!  Students should be counting constantly and should be quizzed about math facts (especially subtraction) on a constant basis.  Try making this your driving routine or what you do with your kids at the grocery store. 
  3. Once students have their facts memorized, they must begin to extend that knowledge to the tens and hundreds.  So whenever you practice a number bond – 3+4=7 for example – extend, extend, extend.  30 +40 = 70.  300 + 400 = 700 AND 33 +4 = 37, 43 + 4 = 47 AND 643 + 4 = 647  OR 643 + 14 = 653!  There are always ways to take the concept and go deeper without moving on to a new concept.
  4. When students begin working in the hundreds and thousands, it is important to use Singapore strategies rather than borrowing and carrying in the mind.  As the numbers get larger, Singapore strategies teach children to hold the concept of the number in the mind and so they can more successfully manipulate those large numbers.  Some of the strategies students will learn are called compensation, branching, composing and decomposing numbers.
  5. As students at the higher levels work to understand concepts they may not have clearly understood in younger grades – be sure to get out the manipulatives!  Don’t skimp when it comes to following the Home Instructor’s Guide on the lesson of the day.  The older students will greatly benefit from using the place value discs and base 10 blocks.  If you haven’t gotten your manipulatives yet, please see your teacher about what sets you most need at home. 
  6. Finally – read through your Home Instructor’s Guide – cover to cover!  I don’t mean that you should read each lesson in one sitting.  But you should read all of the great information that comes before the lessons, and familiarize yourself with all of the appendices so you know where to find all of the things you need.  Please be sure to print out your grids and follow them exactly to ensure that your child is ready for class each day.

I am amazed by the tenacity and sagacity of the parents at our school.  Your commitment is evident and the faculty are grateful for your patience and determination as we forge a new pathway as a community.  We really believe in you and although we know this change poses its challenges, we trust that our students will be the stronger for it.  It is apparent that as teachers and parents we are all growing too!   Here is a quote from a parent of a level 5 student:  

“I must admit, it is somewhat different from last year’s curriculum, and there has been a bit of a learning curve, but it is time well spent.  I suppose that some of the challenge was self-induced, in that I’m comfortable with numbers, having had numerous finance courses while completing graduate studies.  However, once the realization that teaching a fifth grader, was different from analyzing an equity valuation, things became much easier.  In fact, the instructor’s guide, has now become part of my reading list (my new best friend), and I know that [my student] appreciates the changes I’ve made  in presenting the information. “ 


"The growth and development of people is the highest 
calling of leadership."  ~ Harvey S. Firestone

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