Thursday, August 12, 2010

Singapore Math

I've come across the term Singapore Math in a few different contexts in the last few days:

Context one: homeschooling mom describing her seven and half year old's planned curriculum for next year

Context two: a friend of mine who's starting to homeschool her 4.5 year old son also mentioned it (independently of Context 1)

Context three: a KIPP math teacher in DC walks through a Singapore Math-based model approach she learned at their national conference

Context four: the same math teacher posted on where Singapore math sits in the traditional vs. reform spectrum (with bonus video of Tom Lehrer's New Math, one of my favorite geeky songs ever)

All of this finally led me to look up what exactly this Singapore Math stuff is. Here, let me wikipedia it for you. The basic impression I got from the model drawing example posted on Math Rules was that it was visual algebra. The description on wikipedia is more enticing... the part that specifically grabbed my attention and made me post was this: "The principle of teaching mathematical concepts from concrete through pictorial to abstract. For example, introduction of abstract decimal fractions (in Grade 4) is preceded by their pictorial model of centimeters and millimeters on a metric ruler, but even earlier (in Grades 2 and 3) addition and subtraction of decimals is studied in the concrete form of dollars and cents."

This actually sounds to me like it could potentially be a really cool merger of the kind of concrete arithmetic that Lockhart's Lament would ask you to start with, leading into the kinds of applied problems that dy/dan is great at coming up with, all the while concentrating on the "why" beyond the "how".

What do you think? Have you had any experience teaching with Singapore Math? Is it the "New new math"?

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