Saturday, May 26, 2012

Spiral Curriculum

Good day Dr. Yeap! I attended the seminar last May 21-24 at SM Megall (see photo). Thank you for sharing your expertise and time with us. I just want to ask you about spiral progression. How do you apply it in Math? Can you give an example? Cely
Singapore mathematics curriculum emphasizes the spiral approach based on Jerome Bruner's explanation on spiral curriculum. The idea of the spiral curriculum, according to Bruner - 'A curriculum as it develops should revisit this basic ideas repeatedly, building upon them until the student has grasped the full formal apparatus that goes with them.' Most people will not miss the idea of 'repeatedly' but may miss the subtle notion of 'building upon them' and 'until the student has grasped the full formal apparatus' of the target concept. In Singapore curriculum, addition is taught four times in Grade 1 (this is a core idea and they are new to it) - addition with 10, within 20, within 40 and within 100. Students get to revisit the idea of addition repeatedly but each time building on the strategies that they already had. When they add with 10, they count all and count on, perhaps with the use of concrete objects and drawings. Later, in addition within 20, they learn to make ten before adding, effectively acquiring the notion of place value. Later they progress to more formal approaches such as adding ones and adding tens in the formal algorithm. Thus, it is not mere review of materials. It involves extension. In a similar way, multiplication of whole numbers is taught in grades one through four; addition and subtraction of fractions is taught in grades two through five; area of plane figures is taught in grades three through seven; solving equations is taught in grades seven through nine. As a result, in Singapore, Algebra is taught across grade levels in high school (grades seven through twelve). Thus, we do not have the practice of teaching Algebra, Geometry etc separately. They are all under the subject of mathematics. There is geometry in all grade levels.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Question on Retention

Question - How do we help students retain what they have learned.

ATeacher in Hawaii


A good program arranges the topics in a certain way for various purposes. To help students retain, one of the ways is to arrange topics in such as a way that students have many opportunities to revisit a particular key concept or skill.

Let's use the example of equivalent fractions. After it is learned in Grade 3, the chapters that follow it are adding unlike fractions and subtracting unlike fractions (but limited to cases such as a third plus a sixth or three tenths subtract a fifth where it is necessary to rename only one of the fractions to make both like fractions). The two weeks or so of constant writing fractions as equivalent ones as students add unlike fractions help them consolidate the skill learned. It is critical that a new skill is well consolidated before students leave them behind.

The next grade level when student said such fractions but for cases where the sum exceeds 1, students get to review finding equivalent fractions. In grade five, when students are dividing say a half by three, one of the methods involves renaming one half as three sixths before proceeding to divide the three parts into three. Using this method, three fourths divided by three can be done straight away but to divide three fourths by two requires renaming three fourths as six eighths. The opportunity to review equivalent fraction in a different context enhance the retention of the skill of finding equivalent fractions.

Two principles discussed here - ample consolidation after a new skill is learned and review but not a mere repetition but done in other / more challenging contexts.

Singapore curriculum is arranged for this to happen. Good textbook authors arrange the topics for this to happen.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Bunch of Questions

How can Singapore Math be taught to children who are at different learning levels? Answer
We just completed a two-day professional development on how to do differentiated instruction using Singapore Math in White Plains with 60 teachers. For struggling learners the concrete experience before pictorial representation helps them. For advanced learners, tasks can be easily extended to engage them in higher-order thinking. Singapore Math is well-known for helping average learners reach high levels of achievement. The last piece of information is what emerges from TIMSS and PISA where many of our average learners are performing at Advanced level in TIMSS or Levels 5 and 6 at PISA.

How does Singapore Math help children who have difficulty learning math?
The use of visuals helps. In Singapore Math we use the CPA (concrete-pictorial-abstract) Approach based on Jerome Bruner's work. Students are taught an abstract concept via concrete expreinecs and the use of pictorial representations.

How does Singapore Math help children with more advanced math skills? Singapore Math is based on the idea of using mathematics as a vehicle for the development and improvement of a person's intellectual competencies. Students with advanced skills get to work with more complex problem that requires deeper thinking (this is in the program). They also get to develop skills such visualization and ability to see patterns.

What training do teachers/school administrators need in order to introduce Singapore Math in their curriculum?
Marshall Cavendish Institute offers a range of professional development courses to help teachers teach the program. MCI's Experiencing Singapore Math is a one-day executive program for administrators who are keen to implement the program in their schools. The publisher HMH has ran this program in Chicago, Nashville, Alabama, Scottsdale, and recently in Neward and East Brunswick in NJ.

What grade levels seem to show the greatest impact for Singapore Math?
I do not know this but you may refer to various research done at various sites. Based on my professional experience, best results come when the kids are introduced to it at K-2.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Question about Students Not Meeting the Goals

What if a student is clearly not ready to move on to the next level at the end of the school year despite concerted efforts to assist him/her? What do you folks do with these students (grade K-6)?

Malama pono (Take care),
Teacher in a oublic charter school in Hawai'i

coming soon

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Question on Learning Theories

Last week I attended your lecture in Vlissingen where you spoke about the Singapore approach. During the lecture you mentioned some names of people who wrote about the CPA approach, the Conceptual approach and about systematic variation in your powerpoint presentation. I'm very interested in reading articles about these approaches.

Educator in the Netherlands

You can goggle Jerome Bruner (spiral curriculum, enactive-iconic-symbolic representations), Zoltan Dienes (variability) and Richard Skemp (relational understanding, instrumental understanding).

These are the key theories taught at the NIE to Singapore mathematics teachers.