Singapore Math in the American Classroom

I had the opportunity to attend a forum dedicated to understanding the math curriculum in Singapore. From the results of the TIMMS report in 1999 – it is clear that the way Singapore prepares its students in math is extraordinary. The style and content of the textbooks they utilize to teach their students is something that the United States could benefit from. In fact, many schools, like South River Public Schools in New Jersey, have started incorporating Singapore math textbooks into their curriculum and they’ve found the following results:

In the 3rd grade:

  • Advanced proficient scores increased by 12.2 percent
  • Proficient scores increased by 3.18 percent
  • Partially proficient scores decreased by 15.38 percent

In the 4th grade:

  • Advanced proficient scores increased by 8.43 percent
  • Proficient scores increased by 1.36 percent
  • Partially proficient scores decreased by 9.79 percent

These are some big improvements — but the question on my mind when I heard them was, “Why?”

Dr. Yeap Ban Har from the National Institute of Education in Singapore explained that the math textbooks that the students use do not focus on rote memorization but instead rely on the human ability to visualize. He also explained that the textbooks include a “collection of tasks which are carefully selected to provide variation to strong conceptual development.”

It was a very fascinating forum and I encourage you to try some of the examples from the math books and let me know your thoughts on them.

Uniformity in our Graduation Data

Over the past few months, I’ve increasingly written about the dropout crisis facing our nation. One post that I distinctly remember pertains to the lack of uniformity for states reporting their dropout statistics.

Yesterday, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings attempted to fix this problem by issuing proposed federal regulations which, in addition to other things, would create a uniform graduation rate reporting system among states.

The formula that states will now need to use is one that was agreed upon by the nation’s governors in 2005. Spellings also illustrated how the dropout epidemic negatively affects our economy:

Over their lifetimes, dropouts from the class of 2007 alone will cost our nation more than $300 billion in lost wages, lost taxes, and lost productivity. Increasing graduation rates by just five percent, for male students alone, would save us nearly $8 billion each year.

I think it is important that we take steps to solve our nation’s dropout crisis and it’s imperative that all states use the same formula, so we can truly know how the severity of the epidemic. Solving this crisis is going to take a lot of hard work and collaboration with leaders at all levels of government and I commend Sec. Spellings for continuing this dialogue yesterday.

You can read her full remarks at the Department of Education’s Website