Singapore Math

First we looked at Indian maths, then Kumon maths, now Singapore maths? Why Singapore maths?Well, we’re featuring Singapore maths here because it is a curriculum that is relied upon by many homeschooling families in Japan, and in our Education-in-Japan online community. So we thought we’d post the two news articles below that show why many overseas educators are adopting math texts out of Singapore.



Tue, Mar 11, 2008
The Straits Times
US kids score with S’pore maths texts
LOS ANGELES – IN JUST one year, an elementary school in a poor district of Los Angeles increased the number of fifth-graders achieving state standards by 69 per cent – simply by switching to Singaporean maths textbooks.In 2005, just 45 per cent of the children in Hollywood’s Ramona Elementary School’s equivalent of Singapore’s Primary 5 made the grade.

But that was also the year that Ramona began using textbooks developed for Singapore’s schools, whose pupils consistently rank tops in world maths comparisons.

In 2006, the switch was rewarded with a 76 per cent pass rate. ‘It’s wonderful,’ said principal Susan Arcaris. ‘Seven out of 10 of the students in our school are proficient or better in math.’

And Ramona’s pupils – many of whom are children from poor immigrant families – are outperforming their counterparts in more affluent schools.

California recently became the first state to include the Singapore series on its list of state-approved texts.

Being on the list puts an important imprimatur on the books, because California is by far the largest, most influential textbook buyer in the country.

The decision to approve the books could also place California ahead of the national curve as the National Mathematics Advisory Panel is expected this week to issue maths reforms that, in many ways, mirror the Singapore curriculum.

The report comes in the wake of a ‘maths war’ nationwide. Fundamentalists want a return to basics; reformers demand a curriculum that would emphasise conceptual understanding.

Mathematicians on both sides of the divide say that the Singapore curriculum teaches both. By hammering on the basics, it instils a deep understanding of key concepts, they say.

Ramona, which received a grant to introduce the Singapore curriculum, is one of a sprinkling of schools in the United States to do so.

The Singapore books are not easy for teachers to use without training. In fact, a study in Maryland schools using the Singapore books found that students did better only when their teachers had been trained to use the books.

But whatever teachers think of the texts, the Ramona pupils clearly love it, as they treat their 60-second basic drills like a game.

What may not be obvious initially is that the drill (what’s 2+3, 3+4, 8+2) is carefully thought out to reinforce patterns of mathematical thinking.

This thoughtfulness is the true hallmark of the Singapore books, advocates say.

After 10 years of studying the Singaporean curriculum, Professor Yoram Sagher of the University of Illinois in Chicago says he is still amazed by ‘the gentle, clever ways that the mathematics is brought to the intuition of the students’.

Ramona maths coach Robin Ramos illustrates the point by flipping through two sets of texts: the Singapore books and those of a conventional American maths series.

In the latter, there is a picture of eight trees, and two circles in the sky. The instructions say: ‘There are 2 birds in all.’ There are no birds on the page, but the instructions direct the students to draw little yellow disks in the circles to represent them.

Without a visual representation of birds, Ms Ramos noted, the maths is confusing for a five or six-year-old.

The Singapore first-grade text, by contrast, begins with a blank rectangle and the number and word for ‘zero’. Below that was a rectangle with a single robot in it, and the number and word for ‘one’. Then a rectangle with two dolls, and the number and word for ‘two,’ and so on.

‘This page is very pictorial, but it refers to something very concrete,’ Ms Ramos said. ‘Something they can understand.’



US TEXTS ADAPTED FROM S’PORE VERSIONSTHE Primary Mathematics Standards Edition, which is for grades one to five, is adapted from the Primary Mathematics Project series co-published by Singapore’s Marshall Cavendish and the Ministry of Education in 1982.

Marshall Cavendish, a publishing brand under Times Publishing Group in Singapore, worked with – an Oregon-based company which distributes Singapore mathematics textbooks in the United States – to market the books there.

Besides the primary school series, there is also the Earlybird Kindergarten Mathematics Standards Edition, an adaptation of the Earlybird Preschool Mathematics used by kindergarten-age children in Singapore.

The Singapore books needed a little tweaking for the American market – for example, Singapore dollars became US dollars, while ‘apples’ were used in examples instead of tropical fruits such as rambutans or durians.

Last November, the state of California approved the use of these maths textbooks in schools there. estimated last year that Singapore books are used by 70,000 students in 700 to 800 schools in the US, mainly in states such as Massachusetts, New Jersey and Wisconsin.

Singapore maths textbooks are used not only in the US, but also in neighbouring countries such as Thailand, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Top photo: Mr Jeffery Thomas (left), founder of Inc, which distributes Singapore textbooks, and Mr Ling Guan Heng, general manager of Marshall Cavendish International, showing off the cover of the maths textbook series approved for use by California’s board of education

Tie-up for push to sell S’pore maths textbooks in US
Publisher here partners US counterpart to target 1.9m pupils through state ministries. -ST
Maria Almenoar
Fri, Sep 28, 2007
The Straits Times
A PUBLISHER is making a big push to have more United States pupils use Singapore’s mathematics textbooks.
Marshall Cavendish, which publishes the My Pals Are Here! series used in primary schools here, has teamed up with American education group Great Source to sell the books in the United States next year.Currently, around 250,000 pupils in the US are using an older version of Singapore’s maths textbooks, but Great Source now wants to target 1.9 million pupils from kindergarten to Grade 5 with the My Pals series.

Great Source, which is part of the Houghton Mifflin company, a leading education publisher in the US, will be targeting state education ministries, rather than individual schools.

Said Great Source publisher Susan Rogalski: ‘Our initial meetings with teachers and people in the industry have been very encouraging, and because of that, we decided on this partnership.’

The Republic’s reputation in maths gained a foothold in the US when American educators started taking note of Singapore students’ first positions in the subject, in the 1995 and 1999 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS).

Said Ms Rogalski: ‘Teachers have taken notice of Singapore consistently topping the maths rankings, and they are curious as to how they are doing it.’

Singapore students also came out tops in maths in the 2003 TIMSS while the US ranked 12th for its fourth graders (equivalent to Primary 4 pupils) and 15th for its eighth graders (Secondary 2). The study, done once every four years, covers students from more than 40 countries.

Ms Rogalski added that teachers in the US who had seen samples of the My Pals series liked the uncluttered design of the pages and that concepts were taught in greater depth.

‘Maths is a very abstract subject for many kids. So we are very consistent in how we teach it – moving from a concrete example, to pictorial form, and then questions to test their understanding,’ said Marshall Cavendish publisher Duriya Aziz.

These are some of the same reasons Marshall Cavendish teamed up in 1998 with Inc, an Oregon-based distributor owned by a Singaporean, to take the Singapore Primary Mathematics series to about 500 American schools mainly in the East Coast area.

Ten American universities are also currently showing trainee teachers how to teach that curriculum.

For the My Pals series, Great Source will be placing emphasis on teacher training through workshops and seminars.

The Singapore version will also be tweaked to fit objectives of the US system, which may vary between States.

Characters, places and spelling in the books will also be changed to reflect American culture.

Singapore textbooks have also made their way to Thailand, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Malaysia. In some of these regions, the Republic’s science textbooks are also being used.

The chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Education, Dr Lily Neo, said that this was a good indication of how highly regarded Singapore’s education system is internationally.

‘With Singapore’s aims to be a global education hub, this is a step in the right direction,’ she said.

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