kitchen table math, the sequel: compare and contrast

## Wednesday, October 31, 2007

### compare and contrast

good heavens

Speaking of Advanced and Proficient and whatnot, remember this? (pdf file)

Placement Test for Singapore Primary Mathematics 6A
This test covers only new material taught in Primary Mathematics 6A

A motorist traveled from Town A to Town B. After traveling 1/3 of the distance for the journey at an average speed of 45 km/h, he continued to travel another 480 km to reach Town B. If his average speed for the entire journey was 54 km/h, what was his average speed for the last 2/3 of the distance?

A car and a truck were traveling to Town Q at constant average speeds. The car overtook the truck when they were 420 km from Town Q. The car arrived at Town Q at 6:30 p.m. while the van was still 120 km away from Town Q. The van arrived at Town Q at 8:30 p.m. What was the average speed of the car?

#### 29 comments:

Unknown said...

Eleven-year-old kids in Singapore just took their PSLEs (Primary School Leaving Exams) this month. Check out this article about the math portion of the test: www.straitstimes.com/Free/Story/STIStory_169062.html?vgnmr=1 And then read some of the comments. Very interesting.

Barry Garelick has made me wonder how much of what happens in the Singapore math world is due to the curriculum, and how much is due to culture. I used to think curriculum was the key. But now I'm beginning to wonder if the incredible drive and work ethic isn't even more important. Kids here in Singapore are CRYING over missing a few questions on a standardized test. Can you imagine that happening anywhere in the United States?

concernedCTparent said...

Crying over one missed question is not unheard of at my house. Is this a cultural thing or a personality thing?

Anonymous said...

I have seen many posts on message boards by American parents who are homeschooling their children requesting advice on how to deal with children having "break downs" over incorrect answers.

I share CT's experience with my own children. If there is something "cultural" going on in America, I suspect it is happening in the school culture itself rather than in the culture in general.

I wonder what happens in private American schools.

concernedCTparent said...

The interesting thing is that when it happened last year in the public school, it was an aberration. They didn't quite know what to do as it was extremely unusual behavior in that particular setting.

In her previous public school (with a gifted program) they just seemed to get her and the teachers (gifted or not) were able to diffuse the situation without downplaying her desire to achieve excellence.

Catherine Johnson said...

There is absolutely a cultural difference -- wonder if I can scare up those old posts at ktm-1.

Cassy T sent me a great email on this subject, which she said I could post...so now: can I find it?

Also, Steinberg (and possibly Stigler) looked at this.

They found, in the U.S., that Asian parents expected their kids to get As, Anglo parents expected (and were happy with) Bs, black (and I think Hispanic) parents wanted Cs.

Catherine Johnson said...

This doesn't faze me.

As usual, my position is that schools need to teach the kids they have, not the kids somebody else has.

We do not have an intensely school-oriented culture, period.

Therefore, we need to use teaching methods that do not depend on students hailing from an intensely school-oriented culture.

That would be direct instruction.

Catherine Johnson said...

simple!

Catherine Johnson said...

There's no question in my mind the Singapore curriculum is better, too.

I'd love to see how they'd fare using EM & Connected Math!

Catherine Johnson said...

Case in point.

C. just arrived home and is violently refusing to do anything to prepare for Friday's math test.

No!

It's Halloween!

I'm not studying on Halloween!

It's 4 pm; trick or treating doesn't begin 'til 6; he's not studying.

Because it's Halloween.

I've got a call into his dad, who will straighten him up, but in the meantime I'm going to suspend work on my BOOK to go downstairs and lower the boom myself.

Also, the teacher said he would give the kids the list of test topics today and did not.

On edline: "Chapter 8 and review stuff"

So I've got an email into the teacher.

This isn't Singapore.

Anonymous said...

When I was in high school we had to get an 94 to get an A. Wiki says that the grading system in Singapore goes like this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GPA_in_Singapore

1: 75% and above
2: 70% to 74%
3: 65% to 69%
4: 60% to 64%
5: 55% to 59%
6: 50% to 54%
U: Below 50%, considered Un-graded, or failed.

Which to me looks like you only need 75% to get an A.

I think this might be relevant to how math is taught. My speculation is tht 25% of the math problems in Singapore can be "tough" ones. In America, only 6% will be "tough" ones. Singaporean students simply spend more time working on tough problems than their American counterparts. (Assuming no one is grading on a curve etc)

Anonymous said...

When I was in high school we had to get an 94 to get an A. Wiki says that the grading system in Singapore goes like this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GPA_in_Singapore

1: 75% and above
2: 70% to 74%
3: 65% to 69%
4: 60% to 64%
5: 55% to 59%
6: 50% to 54%
U: Below 50%, considered Un-graded, or failed.

Which to me looks like you only need 75% to get an A.

I think this might be relevant to how math is taught. My speculation is tht 25% of the math problems in Singapore can be "tough" ones. In America, only 6% will be "tough" ones. Singaporean students simply spend more time working on tough problems than their American counterparts. (Assuming no one is grading on a curve etc)

Anonymous said...

Singapore is Vastly Different culturally. It's not preferable, either; it's different.

You go to the precise place that they let you go with your life. You are told the expectations in grammar school, and if you don't make them, you don't even get to go to high school or college. Do well? Make it to a top grad school in America? You return to a specific job--and only that job. They tell you what you do. You don't get to choose to start your own company or be a professor or go into diplomacy. They dictate it.

The culture is king. You don't break the rules. We have different ideas here. Many of our ideas are better. But few of us would give up our sovereignty for that.

Unknown said...

Hi Allison,

You're so right -- different isn't necessarily better, and Singapore definitely has issues! (Although we have Singaporean friends who would disagree with you on the opportunities available for great students. Entrepreneurship is huge here, and high-flyers can really write their own tickets. With few exceptions, it's a serious meritocracy.)

I guess I'm thinking more about culture and how it affects education.... Is it possible for a curriculum to overcome the weaknesses of a culture? Like Catherine, I hope that Singapore Math, combined with Direct Instruction, would work for "the students you have" in the U.S. But I'm beginning to wonder if that's really possible.

Cheryl vT (in Singapore)

concernedCTparent said...

I guess I still have to wonder if a school can have a "culture" that is more compatible with Singapore Math and Direct Instruction. I see it working so well in a homeschool or even afterschool setting, and I've also experienced vastly different public school "cultures". I see the bigger problem when the home culture does not align well with the school culture. It still seems possible to me that the challenges can be overcome in the right educational environment whether it be homeschool, charter or private. Once in a while, you might even be lucky to find it in the public school setting.

I have lived in school districts with a high number of Asian students. These students tends to bring their culture to the school and it tends to affect the school culture in a positive way. Achieving excellence becomes important for everyone.

I guess I'm not ready to give up on the idea that we can overcome the "weaknesses of a culture". School environments are not set in stone.

le radical galoisien said...

oy leh. can't be liddat y'know, chuis toujours la ...

"Make it to a top grad school in America? You return to a specific job--and only that job. They tell you what you do. You don't get to choose to start your own company or be a professor or go into diplomacy. They dictate it."

Sort of true ... which is the source of the frustration with the education system and the Singapore civil service in general.

But I mean, Singapore isn't a centrally planned economy. The grievance is more of the fact that streaming people at such an early age can leave otherwise potentially bright people on an almost irreversible downward-spiral.

Gayle Goh (a famous student who had a little debate with the Permanent Sec of Foreign Affairs and entered the national spotlight) had several things to say on this:

http://i-speak.blogdrive.com/comments?id=160

I mean, it's not so much as tailoring people for jobs as the idea that the "top stream" or the "gifted stream" have their curriculum specifically engineered towards governing the nation, while those in a sufficiently high stream might be professionals, and those entering ITE to be vocationals ... class divisions based on education are planned out at the age of 12.

No one says, "YOU will become an analyst for the Ministry of Finance; you will become a lawyer, you will become an MRT driver etc." (Too much Ayn Rand lately?)

BUT the government arguably does try to breed its next new generation of bureaucrats, and seduce potential (bright) Opposition students into joining the establishment. (In Imperial China, the purpose of exams after all, was to search for civil servants.)

"My speculation is tht 25% of the math problems in Singapore can be "tough" ones."

Well, in the US where as long as you write a thorough essay for your English class you might be guaranteed a 100, 100s in Singapore for say, an essay would be reserved for absolute masterpieces.

I mean, my lit teacher would give me nothing but compliments but then give me 18/20 for a lit essay I spent two hours on. "Cogent essay," she would write. But how did I lose that 90%? I mean I've never seen a 100 under the Singaporean system -- unless you write with pure elegance on the level of T.S. Eliot.

le radical galoisien said...

*How did I only get 90%, rather.

I mean, in Singapore, 90+ is considered an excellent grade, whereas in the US it would be "good enough". I was so shocked when in freshman year my 100's came so easily. After years of getting 70s and high 80s under the Singapore education system, I almost couldn't believe it ...

Unknown said...

"I guess I still have to wonder if a school can have a "culture" that is more compatible with Singapore Math and Direct Instruction."

Me too -- and I see things about the KIPP model that mirror some elements of the culture found in Singaporean schools: high expectations for all players involved, strong work ethic (and long hours), appreciation for intellectualism (i.e. it's cool to be smart)....

But then comes the refrain, "KIPP schools won't work outside of very specific situations." Maybe that's true -- but aren't these cultural aspects something that all schools would want to have?

Unknown said...

That reminds me... I saw a bus the other day (here in Singapore) with a giant advertisement on the back featuring two pre-teen boys. These two were Singapore's top-scorers on their national exams. They were promoting "essence of chicken" (maybe le R Galoisien could explain...) -- like rock stars. How cool is that?

Cheryl vT in Singapore

concernedCTparent said...

How cool is that?

Very cool.

*sigh* Our culture is quite far removed from promoting intellectualism to that degree, I'm afraid.

Anonymous said...

"*sigh* Our culture is quite far removed from promoting intellectualism to that degree, I'm afraid."

There is a passage in Thomas Friedman's book "The World is Flat" that stood out about our culture.

Paraphrasing here -- "In China Bill Gates is Britney Spears, in the U.S. Britney Spears is Britney Spears."

Very telling and very scary.

concernedCTparent said...

Jeff, I thought of that passage immediately!!!

Catherine Johnson said...

I am perfectly comfortable with Britney Spears being Britney Spears, or I would be if we had charter schools....

The fact that America isn't a school-oriented country combined with the fact that U.S. public schools require that everyone BE THE SAME or at least DO THE SAME THING makes it hard to lobby one's district for better academics.

You've always got a pretty large group of parents who think the schools are fine.

Catherine Johnson said...

Is Myrtle right?

Does anyone know?

That would be pretty interesting...

Ben Calvin said...

Paraphrasing here -- "In China Bill Gates is Britney Spears, in the U.S. Britney Spears is Britney Spears."

Of couse it wasn't so long ago that the Gang of Four was Britney Spears.

Catherine Johnson said...

oh gosh....

le radical galoisien said...

"These two were Singapore's top-scorers on their national exams. They were promoting "essence of chicken" (maybe le R Galoisien could explain...) -- like rock stars. How cool is that?"

Haha, Brand's Essence of Chicken.

They're marketing on the idea that drinking the herbal remedy cum tasty soup will give you a boost of mental acuity. Sort of like how Red Bull gives you wings, only it's an energy drink for the mind. Whether it really helps you on your examinations (have you seen the advertisements on TV yet?) remains to be seen, but it tastes good nevertheless. (But it's expensive! I might as well eat chicken rice instead.)

le radical galoisien said...
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le radical galoisien said...
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le radical galoisien said...

(I do recommend it in the case you fall ill or something and you need the equivalent of twenty bowls of chicken soup, but its main role in exams would be to stave off hunger.)