PA Coalition for World Class Math

                               Brandywine School District adopts Singapore Math



Singapore Math taught to students around the world

For decades, the United States has lagged behind other countries in terms of math curriculum, student assessment, and student readiness. Over the past four years, the Brandywine School District has been examining research-based math curricula aligned to the new Common Core standards that have been designed to prepare students for a global economy. This year, Brandywine is proud to announce that we have adopted the curriculum commonly called Singapore Math.

An international math curriculum, Singapore Math is much more rigorous and accelerated than the math programs previously used in our schools, especially at the elementary level. “Singapore Math is typically a full year ahead of where students have been in our state as a result of moving to the new Common Core standards,” explained Dr. Julie Schmidt, the District's Supervisor of Accountability. With a strong emphasis on problem solving, the new math program provides a coherent curriculum from kindergarten to high school and includes materials for students with special needs as well as those in a gifted program. According to Sabrina Fitzhugh, a PS duPont Middle School math teacher familiar with the new program, “Singapore math uses correct math language and stresses math accuracy. It uses a balance of conceptual and procedural knowledge, all while stressing problem solving through the curriculum.”

“This new math curriculum fits our needs perfectly, for several reasons,” stated Superintendent Mark Holodick. “It is balanced and fits in with our Learning Focused Strategies framework of instruction. It is challenging for students at all levels and will better prepare our students to compete in an international economy. It was recommended by our District's Math Council and secondary math teachers after a careful evaluation of several programs and research. It is aligned to the national Common Core standards in mathematics. And it will help us bridge the achievement gap to ensure that all of our children succeed.”

The District has been researching the new math curriculum for the past four years, thanks in part to the support of the Delaware Foundation for Science and Math Education. With the Foundation's assistance, math teachers in the District have had access to training, materials, and other resources, allowing several teachers to use this curriculum as supplemental in their classrooms. One such teacher is Gina DiBattista at Talley Middle School. “I have used the bar model method [advocated by this new math curriculum] for the past 3-4 years in my math resource classes. The bar model is effective for solving word problems and provides visual representation of the problem with appropriate words, values, and a question mark (to identify what needs to be found) attached to the bars. The model allows students to determine the appropriate operations to use to solve the problem. The model and the customary algorithm for solving that problem should always be presented together. The goal is to eventually have the students use the algorithm. The bar model can always be created to illustrate the words of the problem, which often is a barrier for some students to determine the appropriate approach to solving the problem.”

Sabrina Fitzhugh of PS duPont was one of the teachers involved in researching the new math curriculum over the past several years. “After watching Singapore math in action [at a school in New Jersey], I was amazed at how much math the students knew. They were solving complex problems, computing accurately, and they seemed to love doing math. There were no games and tricks involved. They loved math because they understood the math and they were working hard at solving problems. I fully believe that this program will get students to like math because they will understand the reasoning behind it. I believe that special education students will thrive with the guided practice that is used in this program, while the gifted students will thrive on all of the problem solving opportunities in this curriculum. There is extra practice for students who need it and there are extra challenging word problems for the students who are able to extend their math thinking.”

Early feedback is extremely positive. Because of the school's balanced calendar and early start date, students at Maple Lane Elementary already have been learning this new curriculum for several weeks. “Because our students had no prior experience with the bar model solution strategy employed by Singapore, we started with daily math warm-up problems as the kids entered each day,” explained fifth grade teacher Barbara Rosen. “These group practice problem solutions helped guide our students in this strategy use and many are quite adept at it now. Plus, it added another 15 or 20 minutes to our daily math instruction!

“Our students are new to Singapore math, so we reviewed place value (millions to millionths) and added on place values through billions before starting, as the book assumes students have alreadymastered this. We have also been doing daily timed multiplication facts drills and are working on multiplication by 1 and 2 digits as well as beginning division by 1 and 2 digits divisors. Skill pre-assessments were given to all fifth graders and now we have math groups who meet to do remediation, extra practice and enrichment several times a week within our classrooms.”

“The Delaware Foundation for Science and Mathematics Education (DFSME) was pleased and surprised that a group of Brandywine teachers, trained by DFSME three years ago using Singapore techniques, convinced their colleagues to move to this world-leading method of teaching math. DFSME believes Brandywine will be seen as the pioneering district in the state for giving its students the mathematics they need to succeed. We will support their transition as broadly as we can,” stated Dr. F. M. Ross Armbrecht Jr., Executive Director of the Delaware Foundation for Science and Mathematics Education.

This year, the Brandywine School District has implemented Singapore Math in grades 4-6. Next school year, all K-3 students also will be using Singapore Math.