Making math lessons as easy as 1, pause, 2, pause …


An increasingly popular approach to teaching math emphasizes visual aids and a slow pace, with a week on the numbers 1 and 2. And while teachers initially are skeptical of this approach, many now are fervent supporters, reports the New York Times. The new approach is based on the national math system of Singapore and aims to emulate that country’s success by promoting a deeper understanding of numbers and math concepts. Students in Singapore have repeatedly ranked at or near the top on international math exams since the mid-1990s. Dozens of U.S. districts have adopted Singapore math, as it is called, amid growing concerns that too many American students lack the higher-order math skills called for in a global economy. Singapore math might be the latest in a string of fads, but supporters say it seems to address one of the difficulties in teaching math: All children learn differently. In contrast to the most common math programs in the United States, Singapore math devotes more time to fewer topics, to ensure that children master the material through detailed instruction, questions, problem solving, and visual and hands-on aids like blocks, cards, and bar charts. Ideally, they do not move on until they have thoroughly learned a topic. Principals and teachers say that slowing down the learning process gives students a solid math foundation upon which to build increasingly complex skills, and makes it less likely that they will forget and have to be retaught the same thing in later years. And with Singapore math, the pace can accelerate by fourth and fifth grades, putting children as much as a year ahead of students in other math programs as they grasp complex problems more quickly…

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Laura Ascione
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