Singapore Math - A Model Method?
The Ministry of Education in Singapore is releasing a new book this month that summarizes the thinking behind the "Model Method" for teaching math. The approach has drawn interest from many corners of the world thanks to the country's top performance on international exams.
At a presentation Singapore's Embassy last night, education officials and researchers from the US and Singapore highlighted some key differences between the two systems.
Singapore's method is highly visual and explores fewer topics, but in greater depth. A 2005 study found that Singapore's math curriculum covered about 15 topics in an elementary school year; while Maryland's covered about 29. And while Singapore's text books have an average of 34 lessons with 15 pages of explanation for each, much bulkier texts in the US include an average of 157 lessons, with about four pages of explanation per lesson.
I also learned some more surprising differences:
Professional development is intensive for all teachers in Singapore, but about half the elementary teachers do not have university degrees. That is poised to change, though, as education standards for entering teachers are increasing, said Madame Low Khak Gek, the director of curriculum, planning and development with Singapore's Ministry of Education.
Starting salaries for math teachers match public sector accountants or engineers. "Teachers are treated as professionals," said Susan Sclafani, director of state services for the National Center for Education and the Economy.
Teacher evaluations are extremely comprehensive, and teachers who succeed receive bonuses worth one to three months of salary.
Mentoring programs for new teachers in Singapore last five years!
Grades one and two have smaller class sizes...only 30 students. Other grade levels tend to have 40 students or more.
Students are taught in English, not their native tongue. Many are bilingual or trilingual.
And another big difference -- Students there are more likely to take their studies very seriously. They understand "the quality of their preparation" will indicate "the quality of their lives," Sclafani said.
People often ask, how applicable is a successful model in Singapore to the more diverse and much larger US? I'm also interested in the practical challenges, given that textbooks in the US are written with state standards and assessments in mind, and matching them up with another country's approach might be tough.
What do you think?
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