to transform the teaching of mathematics with an innovative approach

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Singapore scores well in tests that measure academic achievement in the world, particularly in mathematics.
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The PISA test assesses the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old pupils in reading, mathematics and science. In the 2022 analysis, one of the three main axes, mathematics, stood out. Singaporean 15-year-old students outperformed the average of all 81 participating countries by 575 points, against an overall average of 472 points.

Singaporean authorities say maths education is essential for people to learn to think logically and analytically.

Therefore, from an early age, Singaporean children are taught to develop critical mathematical processes that involve reasoning, communication and modeling. Singapore’s unique approach to teaching mathematics is known as the Singapore Method or Mastery Approach.

This method, originally developed in the 1980s Singapore Ministry of Education for public schools in the country, proposes a change in traditional teaching, a transition from memorization to a deeper understanding of studied concepts. Over the past few decades, this method has been adopted and adapted around the world.

What does the method consist of?

The Singapore Mathematical Method has two basic ideas: the concrete, pictorial, abstract (CPA) approach and the concept of mastery.

Developed by American psychologist Jerome Bruner in the 1960s, the CPA approach seeks to make mathematics more accessible by introducing abstract concepts in a tangible way. Use concrete and pictorial representations before moving on to more complex topics.

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In math Singapore children are always working with something concrete, such as blocks that fold and connect, or pictorial representations of flowers, people or frogs. This helps them associate and manipulate mathematical concepts more easily than numbers alone.

This approach also allows us to understand mathematics through visual representations. Once children have mastered the concrete and pictorial stages, they move on to the abstract stage of learning.

The idea of ​​the concept of dominance

Another important pillar of the Method Singapore it is a concept of mastery that says all students in a class should progress at the same pace and ensure that no one is left behind. For example, when children learn a specific topic such as addition, some may grasp it more quickly than others.

Rather than progressing to an entirely new topic, these students are provided with additional activities related to the same topic to reinforce their understanding.

Doctor Ariel Lindorff, Associate Professor of Education at Oxford University clarifies that “This does not mean that everyone should stop and wait for every student to catch up“. The idea is that if some kids have a great understanding of addition, the teacher won’t lead them straight to subtraction, but will give them something that expands the concept of addition a bit more.

These activities can involve working with larger numbers or in different formats, allowing children with strong understanding to solve problems in the same way but differently from the rest of the class. In Singapore mathematics, it is essential that students find the subject relevant and accessible. “The idea is that everyone is capable of doing math and everyone should be able to master the concept to some degree“, he explained Lindorff.

Some may be faster, others may go a little deeper in their understanding. We often think that some people understand maths and others don’t – I don’t believe that, nor does the Singapore methodhe said.

Would the method be effective in other countries?

This method has already been introduced in several countries, including the United States, Canada, Israel and the United Kingdom, among others. However, Lindorff argues that the success of the Singaporean model is closely related to the educational culture, context and history of the city-state.

I don’t think you can just take a method and apply it to other countries“, he said. “Singapore has a unique and interesting history and is a very small place. Thinking about changing education in Singapore is different from thinking about changing in the UK or the US.

He further points out that teachers in Singapore have better career prospects and receive more support than in other countries. It is also emphasized that the attitude of Singaporean children towards learning mathematics is a determining factor in the success of the method..



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