kitchen table math, the sequel: One Singaporean's Perspective on Singapore Math

Sunday, October 11, 2009

One Singaporean's Perspective on Singapore Math


I thought some on this blog might be interested in the following article:

Notice in the subject heading I wrote "one Singaporean's perspective", since, after all, one individual can't really speak for a whole country, right? ;->



Cheryl van Tilburg said...

Hi Patsy --

You're right, Patsy, one person can't speak for a whole country -- but the writer of this piece seems to capture the opinions that I hear in Singapore every day.

Singaporean kids are taking their PSLEs this week (the country-wide exams that determine future academic tracks for year-6 students). Without exception, the kids seem confident about the math component. The same holds true when you talk to students in bookstores or at the playground -- they LIKE math. I think it's because they can DO math. It's not a mystery. (By contrast, I heard a radio DJ wish students good luck on their English language exam, which threatened to be a tough one.)

Singaporean students work hard at mathematics, but the confidence they gain from becoming masters at each topic before they move on seems to mitigate negative feelings about math.

Thanks for posting the article!

P.S. My kids go to the American school in Singapore, where it's Everyday Math for grades 1-5. Sadly, they felt no sense of confidence or enjoyment in math -- that is, until I followed Barry Garelick's excellent advice and started using Singapore Math books at home. The irony of living so close to world-class math instruction, yet finding it so far away in our school's curriculum, is rich -- but tastes bitter nonetheless.

le radical galoisien said...


I always kind of felt the international kids intentionally self-segregated themselves from the local students as though they felt themselves better (or above) us.

Cheryl van Tilburg said...

LRG, that's so sad. While I can't speak for all international kids, I know that my own (now teenagers) feel intimidated by their Singaporean counterparts. They see the Singaporean kids as smarter, for sure.... Last year it came to a head during a televised high school debate series, with our American school versus several top-flight local schools. And there's something humbling about struggling through math books that are for kids two or three years younger than you!

Luckily my kids have made some great Singaporean friends and learned that everyone has unique strengths and weaknesses, regardless of where they're from. But I can totally see what you mean.